by Francis P. Sempa
Earlier this year, Ian Easton, a former China analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses and currently senior director at the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on U.S. security interests in the Indo-Pacific region, wrote a book titled The Final Struggle: Inside China’s Global Strategy. In his author’s note, Easton describes the book as an analysis of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “plan for world domination.” Easton contends that a close reading of President Xi Jinping’s speeches — some of them never before translated — reveals that that CCP is committed to spreading China’s communist totalitarian model of rule around the world.
Easton makes clear in the book that China’s goal of “world domination” does not envision Chinese armed forces conducting a long series of military invasions with “hordes of tanks, and fascist storm troopers swarming across the map” and “goose-stepping into fallen capital cities.” The CCP’s global strategy, he explains, “is much more sophisticated” than Hollywood visions or American novels of World War III. Instead, the CCP’s strategy involves “a protracted campaign of silent invasions to replicate on a global level what it sees as its own superior system.” The CCP’s geopolitical goal is a “totalitarian world order” led by China.
Easton’s book shows that the CCP took to heart Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin’s prediction that the capitalists would sell communists the rope with which communists would hang the capitalists.
Easton calls the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “the armed wing of the Communist Party.” It is the “largest military on earth and probably the single largest and most sophisticated intelligence collector in human history.” And he shows the integral ties between the PLA and Chinese “businesses” that in reality serve the CCP and its policy goals. Unlike capitalist enterprises, Chinese firms serve Beijing’s rulers, not private shareholders. So when American companies and firms do business with Chinese counterparts, they are really doing business with the CCP. Easton calls this “China’s Military-Civilian Fusion,” which presents opportunities for the PLA to “infect” American electronics during peacetime and wartime. It is no accident, as Marxists like to say, that strategists envision World War III beginning with Chinese cyberattacks on U.S. military facilities. Easton worries that China may achieve — if it already hasn’t — the ability to control foreign electronic networks.
In a sense, Easton’s book shows that the CCP took to heart Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin’s prediction that the capitalists would sell communists the rope with which communists would hang the capitalists. And Easton doesn’t buy the notion proclaimed for years by members of the American foreign policy establishment that China’s leaders have abandoned communism and adopted state capitalism to support the regime’s political legitimacy. In a recent article in the Diplomat, Easton reveals speeches where Xi stated that “realizing communism has been the party’s supreme ideal and ultimate objective” and that “realizing communism is an objective that happens … in stages, one step at a time.” He also urged CCP members to “struggle for communism our entire lives.” These remarks were made in 2017 and 2018. Easton also notes that Xi “has repeatedly called [Karl] Marx ‘the greatest thinker in human history.’”
The reason so many Western observers believe China has abandoned communism, Easton explains, is because “Since the late 1970s, China’s government has gone to great lengths to encourage a foreign perception that Marxism and Leninism were all but dead and China would gradually assimilate into the post-war international order and become a ‘responsible stakeholder.’” This has enabled China to “gain access to the international system without being changed by it,” Easton writes. He calls this effort — begun by Deng Xiaoping — ”a campaign of global infiltration.”
Easton describes the Central Party School of the CCP’s 2020 textbook (which, he notes, was not translated into English), titled The Fundamentals of Xi Jinping Thought on Chinese Socialism in a New Era. The book is used in nearly 3,000 training centers in China, in which “students are indoctrinated and prepared for leadership positions in government, society and business.” The training centers groom China’s elite and “mold the minds of future national leaders.” The textbook teaches that “the global economy and global markets” must be state-controlled. Free-market capitalism will be replaced by the socialist economic model, which will organically unify the market and the state. Xi Jinping thought as manifested in the textbook, Easton writes, aims to spread communism throughout the globe. “China’s foreign policy and all its strategic actions abroad — everything the CCP seeks to do and have in the world — is reportedly guided by this vision,” Easton writes. This is Xi’s “China Dream.”
Easton in his book presents a vision of what the world would be like for Americans and all other supplicants to the CCP’s world order. The CCP has constructed a “brutal system of repression through forced labor, brainwashing, systematic rape, sterilizations, invasive birth control, and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment” in China, especially against the regime’s dissident groups, such as the Uyghurs. It is an “Orwellian system” that uses technology, social media, computers, cellphones, televisions, and artificial intelligence to hyper-intrusively control the lives of its citizens. That is the system Xi Jinping wants to spread across the globe.
Easton credits the Donald Trump administration for finally deciding “that the American people had a need to know about the national security threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party” after years of successive U.S. administrations attempts to “engage” China to join the rules-based international order. In 2019, Trump’s national security team — including the national security adviser, FBI director, attorney general, secretary of state, and secretary of homeland security — launched what Easton calls a “coordinated information blitz on a scale not seen since the 1980s” that sought to awaken America and the West to China’s threat. It was a concerted effort to “peer into the minds of our strategic rivals,” Easton writes. But it got sidetracked by dubious impeachment efforts and the controversial 2020 election. Easton’s book is an attempt to get this effort back on track. But there is little sense that the Biden administration — for all of its tough talk — understands the existential nature of China’s threat.
During Cold War I with the Soviet Union, there were plenty of people — especially liberals — who derided notions that the Kremlin’s leaders sought world domination. They did, but Ronald Reagan understood this and took effective steps to place the Kremlin on the geopolitical defensive and implemented policies that brought about the demise of the Soviet Union. There will be those during Cold War II with China who will be equally dismissive of claims that China wants to dominate the world. But Easton’s bona fides are supported by the likes of Mike Pompeo, Matt Pottinger, Aaron Friedberg, and Toshi Yoshihara — all serious and scholarly China watchers. If they recommend Easton’s book, it should be read and studied by America’s policymakers. Easton bases his contention on the words of the CCP’s leaders. And China’s geopolitical actions — its aggression in the South China Sea, its military threat to Taiwan, its Belt and Road Initiative, its massive military buildup, and its strategic partnership with Russia — are fully consistent with Easton’s dismal prognosis.
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Francis P. Sempa is the author of “Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21st Century and America’s Global Role.” His work has appeared in Strategic Review, the Diplomat, Joint Force Quarterly, the Claremont Review of Books, the Asian Review of Books, the South China Morning Post, the National Interest, and other publications.
Photo “President Xi Jinping” by The Kremlin CC BY 4.0.