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China policy a ‘mistake’ says former Secretary of Defense

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a stunning admission on Fox News Channel Wednesday—that forty years of U.S. policy towards China has been seriously flawed. Gates made the statement on Special Report with Bret Baier.

“I think we made two big strategic mistakes when it comes to China,” said Gates.  

“Our policy toward China for the past forty years has been underpinned by the assumption that a richer China would become a freer China,” Gates stated in a reference to allowing China access to U.S. financial markets and the transfer of U.S. industries critical to national security to China.

Allowing China to prosper in open markets while maintaining a closed and oppressive society backfired according to Gates:

“And it has become crystal clear, especially under President Xi, that assumption was wrong.”

Not everyone supported engagement with the Chinese regime. The late Chinese dissident Harry Wu pointed out that the financial gains made by the communist government were poured into building a massive army and high-tech weapons arsenal.

“Today’s so-called ‘engagement policy’ based on business interests is a typical appeasement policy. Appeasement never makes peace. Appeasement never improves human rights in that country,” Wu said in a press conference in 1999.

Gates suggests that the failure of U.S. policymakers to recognize China’s intent has created a new and unwanted rivalry:

“The second was the failure to understand that a richer China would become a more assertive China. And so I think it’s only been the last three or four years that people have begun to realize that this is a regime that we are going to be in a contest with for as far into the future as we can see.”

Throughout the time of engagement with China, there were analysts within the defense and intelligence community who thought it was risky. They frequently pointed to warning signs such as China’s Minister of National Defense, Chi Haotian, who in December 1999, proclaimed:

“Seen from the changes in the world situation, and the United States hegemonic strategy, war is inevitable.” Chi also said that Chinese armed forces “must control the initiative” in the coming war, a signal that defense experts interpreted as evidence that China was considering an offensive attack on the U.S.

Elected officials in Washington recently were jolted by the discovery of how reliant the U.S. is on imported material from China used in high-tech weapons systems. In late April, several Republican senators signed a letter to current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper:  

“It is clear that our dependence on China for vital rare earths threatens our U.S. manufacturing and defense industrial base. As the October 2018 Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Report states:  ‘China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials deemed strategic and critical to U.S. national security.’ Ensuring a U.S. supply of domestically sourced rare earths will reduce our vulnerability to supply disruptions that poses a grave risk to our military.”

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1 Comment

  1. Matt June 18, 2020

    “China policy a ‘mistake’ says former Secretary of Defense”

    The China policy was not about if history will judge this a mistake but who will get filthy rich from moving manufacturing jobs to China.
    Corporate America and Washington knew that China is a country not to be trusted. But the lure of making billions of dollars was worth the risk.
    When the Frankenstein monster would eventually turn on us because of the “China policy being a ‘mistake’ we’d deal with that later.
    When China turns on us the US Industrial Military Complex will benefit through Defense Contracts and sustain its unquenchable appetite. If it doesn’t have an enemy it makes one.
    So it was looked at as a win-win outcome.

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