Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles A former government official Has a controversial idea About how to deal with China Should the US take his advice? Welcome to China Uncensored. I'm Chris Chappell. Today I'm going to talk about a bad idea. It's the kind of bad idea that sounds like a good idea...at least to some people. Like the time that my roommate Carl decided to go skinny dipping...in the neighbor's pool. At least this bad idea comes with less jail time. What's the bad idea? Last week, the Atlantic Council, a prestigious think tank, published an anonymous report called The Longer Telegram. It was “written by a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China.” Oh, so you know this is going to be good. Why is it called the Longer Telegram? The anonymous author wants to compare his report to the “Long Telegram,” an actual telegram sent by George Kennan, an American diplomat in Moscow to the State Department in 1946. Kennan's telegram presented a clear-eyed view of the Soviet Union and correctly predicted what the communist government would do during the Cold War. Kennan called the Soviet Union “highly sensitive to logic of force.” And said that it would withdraw “when strong resistance is encountered at any point.” And he said that the Western world needed to provide that resistance. Kennan's telegram dramatically changed how the US government dealt with the Soviet Union, by essentially proposing what became known as the containment strategy that the US used during the Cold War. So now in the Longer Telegram, this anonymous former senior government official is proposing his own strategy for the US to deal with China. I'm not going to go through the whole thing. When this guy said it was a longer telegram, he wasn't kidding. The original Long Telegram is 8,000 words long. The Longer Telegram is almost 30,000 words long. And you don't watch China Uncensored to see a 3-hour dissection of a think tank policy paper. This isn't Reports Unread. Welcome to Reports Unread, I'm Chris Chappell. Today I'll be talking about...Wait, how long is this thing? I'm not reading this! The real show I need to make is Content Undemonetized. Anyway, back to the longest telegram ever. Don't get me wrong, the anonymous author gets some stuff right. Like when he says that “The single most important challenge facing the United States in the twenty-first century is the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China.” And when he says that the US urgently needs to “develop an integrated, operational, and bipartisan national strategy to guide the content and implementation of US policy toward Xi's China” But the biggest problem with this report is his central strategic idea of how to deal with the Chinese Communist Party. The anonymous author spells that out in this opinion piece he wrote for Politico. The US should focus on Chinese leader Xi Jinping. That's the idea: The US needs to get rid of Xi Jinping. I know what you're thinking: The US is bad at regime change. But don't worry! This is not regime change. Because we're going to get rid of Xi Jinping, but we're going to keep the Chinese Communist Party. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. Why are we keeping the Communist Party? According to the Longer Telegram, treating the Chinese Communist Party the way we treated the Soviet Union, what he calls “containment with Chinese characteristics,” is too blunt of an instrument. And CCP collapse is just a dream. “By contrast, a strategy that focuses more narrowly on Xi, rather than the CCP as a whole, presents a more achievable objective.” That's right, it's not regime change. It's leadership change. Totally different. This is a bad idea. This isn't just skinny dipping in your neighbor's pool. It's diving off Niagara Falls naked. In a canoe. And I'll explain why after the break. Welcome back. The strategy to get rid of Xi Jinping, while keeping the Chinese Communist Party is a really bad idea. And I say that even though I'm no fan of Xi Jinping. He's never responded even once to any of my interview requests. So it's not a bad idea because Xi Jinping is somehow a good guy who should stay in power. It's a bad idea because it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the Chinese Communist Party. One that is dangerous for the US and the rest of the world. The anonymous author believes that “if leadership change were to occur, it would be more likely to move in the direction of a more moderate collective leadership, given that the burden of the internal critique of Xi so far has been that he has been too leftist at home and too assertive abroad.” And how would leadership change occur? Well, did you know that there's this thing called factional infighting going on within the Chinese Communist Party? It's always nice when more people find out about my favorite factional infighting soap opera, General Hostility. But the Longer Telegram says that since there is infighting, “The central focus of an effective US and allied China strategy must be directed at the internal fault lines of domestic Chinese politics in general and concerning Xi's leadership in particular.” On China Uncensored, we differentiate between the Chinese Communist Party and China as a whole. But the Longer Telegram argues that just like attacking “China” in general is an error, it's just as significant of an error to crudely attack the Chinese Communist Party itself. It's simply an unsophisticated strategy when fault lines exist between Xi Jinping and other senior Party officials. So what's the sophisticated strategy? “The mission for US China strategy should be to see China return to its pre-2013 path—i.e., the pre-Xi strategic status quo.” And how would we know that the strategy has been successful? According to the Longer Telegram, one of the indicators would be that “Xi has been replaced by a more moderate party leadership.” I know that's a lot to take in, so let me summarize in a way that the internet can understand. Broke: Nuke China. Woke: Take down the CCP. Bespoke: Leverage factional infighting within the CCP to take down Xi Jinping and ensure that a “moderate” CCP leader replaces him. Sounds great! Except this is exactly how we got into this situation in the first place. I'll explain after the break. Welcome back. A lot of people in the west are completely clueless about the Chinese Communist Party. They think the CCP is just a bunch of benign moderate technocrats. Oh, Chairman Xi Jinping is a bad guy, so let's get rid of him so the good guys can take over? Yeah, right. The problem is, there are no good guys at the top levels of the Chinese Communist Party leadership. They've all had to do terrible things to get to where they are today. It's a classic deal with the devil, and the Party gets your soul. Look at what happened to former Chinese leader Hu Jintao. He used to be an actual human being who experienced actual emotions: And by the end of his term he looked like this. Although it can't be easy having to sit next to the guy who's stabbing you in the back and twisting the knife. Speaking of former Chinese leader and toadfish Jiang Zemin, this guy and his minions are on the other side of the factional struggle against Xi Jinping. If Xi Jinping goes down, he's just going to be replaced by another bad guy, probably someone from Jiang Zemin's faction. The Longer Telegram imagines that there's some moderate leader in the Chinese Communist Party that can take over and make it better, the way it used to be. And it uses former leaders like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao as examples of the former, status quo moderate leaders—you know, from the good old days. Except, the good old days weren't that good. Like how in 1989, Deng Xiaoping ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre. And then in the 90s, Jiang Zemin rose to power by supporting that massacre. He also started the campaign to crush Falun Gong, which included things like killing people for their organs. Hu Jintao used to be Party chief of Tibet. He was indicted in a Spanish court for genocide because of his policies in Tibet. These top Party leaders were all killing people way before Xi Jinping was in power. There were no good old days of the Chinese Communist Party. But the Longer Telegram treats these former Party leaders as more moderate because they seemed to have a less aggressive stance towards the US and changing the international order. But that's wrong. The Communist Party always had an aggressive stance towards the US. It was already going down the same road it is currently under Xi Jinping. The Party just wasn't as rich or powerful back then as it is now, so a lot of people just didn't see it. Here's the problem: The Longer Telegram isn't about getting a better CCP leader. It's about getting a CCP leader that makes the West feel better about the CCP. Once we get rid of Xi Jinping and go back to those benign moderate technocrats, we can work together. And by work together, I mean, we can keep making money together. This is wrong. The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in an ideological struggle with the West. To its credit, the Longer Telegram realizes this, and says the West must fight back. But it makes the mistake of thinking that the Communist Party leaders can pull back on the ideological struggle if we appeal to their self interests by helping them get rid of Xi. That's not how it works. The Chinese Communist Party needs the ideological struggle against the West in order to survive. They've always had it, and they're never going to give that up. Fundamentally, blaming all of CCP's actions on just Xi Jinping is...unsophisticated. It's the CCP not the XiXiP. Everything that the Longer Telegram blames Xi for can be traced back to policies that were in place before Xi. Did Xi make things more aggressive and worse? Sure. But that's no guarantee that the next CCP leader won't do the same. And here's another problem: The US government does not understand the factional struggle within the Communist Party. Remember in 2013, when everyone thought that Xi Jinping was going to be some liberal reformer? The Longer Telegram suggests that the US can somehow pressure Party leaders to choose a moderate leader *this* time. This is a joke. And it's not funny. The danger in getting involved the way that the Longer Telegram suggests is that the US government accidentally ends up doing the dirty work in the factional struggle. And strengthening the Chinese Communist Party. No matter how moderate the next leader may appear to be, they're not going to change the fundamental nature of the Communist Party. Unless they get rid of the Party completely. No matter who is in charge, the Party will continue the genocide in Xinjiang, crushing Hong Kong, militarizing the South China Sea, getting ready to invade Taiwan. They're not going to stop. So in the end, the Longer Telegram's main idea doesn't work. The US would basically be saying that we don't care if the CCP oppresses people, as long as they do it quietly. And hey, can we buy some more of those Chinese bonds? I guess we'll just have to see what happens on General Hostility. Next time on General Hostility...Xi Jinping appears to be winning the factional struggle for the Chinese people's hearts. But he's lost the love of the West. Could the West betray Xi by sleeping with his mortal enemy, Jiang Zemin? Does the West really believe Jiang will treat her better than Xi? Or is the West just doing it for the money? Find out next time...on General Hostility.