The Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping has oppressed its own people, putting millions of Muslim Uyghurs in slave labor camps, suppressing forms of Christianity outside the state church, and twisting the screws on Hong Kong and Tibet. It has rattled its sabers in the Pacific, stolen U.S. intellectual property with impunity, sent a spy balloon over America, and coordinated the release of a deadly virus across the globe while locking its own people down in a failed COVID-zero policy. It has infiltrated the U.S. with its Confucius Institutes and even set up illegal police stations on U.S. soil.
Yet, when the esteemed Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, takes to The New York Times in an opinion column Thursday to analyze why Republicans might be concerned about the red dragon rising above the Middle Kingdom, he can’t just acknowledge its blatant threat. No, he has to find a nefarious reason why conservatives are more concerned than liberals, and he goes for the old canard.
It can’t be that the Communist Party actually poses a menace to the Chinese people, along with people across the globe. No, Republicans must be concerned because China represents a threat to racism and theocracy.
Beinart writes that “Republicans are united in focusing on China” in a move he characterizes as “Asia First.”
He then cites a few words from former President Donald Trump as “mounting evidence that prominent figures on the American right see that danger in racial terms.”
“That’s the problem with Republicans’ return to Asia First. Many in the party don’t only see China’s rise as a threat to American power. They see it as a threat to white Christian power, too,” Beinart concludes.
The professor cites historian Joyce Mao’s book “Asia First: China and the Making of Modern American Conservatism,” arguing that “Cold War era Republicans’ focus on China stemmed in part from a ‘spiritual paternalism that arguably carried over from the previous century.’” The Middle Kingdom “held special allure for Americans interested in winning souls for Christ,” and capitalist-aligned Republic of China President Chiang Kai-shek and his wife used their Christian faith “to drum up American support.”
Many Americans who championed the cause of Chiang “were either the children of American missionaries in China or had served as missionaries there themselves.”
Many American Christians do indeed care about Christianity in the Middle Kingdom, but that does not mean it is somehow racist, triumphalist, or theocratic to support religious freedom in China.
The same American Christians who express outrage over the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to rewrite the Bible also fervently oppose the imprisoning and brainwashing of Uyghur Muslims. In March, the Republican leadership of the House Select Subcommittee on the Chinese Communist Party hosted an important hearing, in which Uyghur victims testified about the sterilization, electroshock torture, and brainwashing taking place in the horrific concentration camps.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., a Roman Catholic, heads the subcommittee and led the hearing.
Beinart’s argument is even flimsier when it comes to race.
The professor cites a 2021 study conducted by University of Delaware political scientists David Ebner and Vladimir Medenica, which found that white Americans who expressed higher degrees of racial resentment were more likely to perceive China as a military threat.
He also claims the Pew Research Center commissioned research into conservatives’ interest in China at his request. The center “found that white non-Hispanic evangelicals were 25 points more likely to hold a ‘very unfavorable’ view of China than Americans who were religiously unaffiliated, 26 points more likely than black Protestants and 33 points more likely than Hispanic Catholics.”
Beinart notes, “This is the Republican base.”
The Pew Research Center has not responded to The Daily Signal’s request for the full data.
Perhaps some Americans who harbor racial resentment dislike countries like China, but that does not prove or even suggest that conservatives who oppose the evils of the Chinese Communist Party do so for racial reasons.
As for white evangelical Protestants, Beinart has the formula backward. The question isn’t “Why are white, evangelical Protestants concerned about the Chinese Communist Party?” but rather “Why isn’t everyone else?”
As Beinart notes, a March Gallup poll found that 53% of Democrats identified Russia, not China, as the United States’ greatest enemy. Thirty percent of them did identify China as the greatest threat, however. Meanwhile, 76% of Republicans identified China, not Russia (12%), as the greatest enemy. Beinart suggests that this reveals a blind spot on the part of Republicans, who see Russia as a “Christian country.” Yet, independents also proved more likely to identify China (46%) as the greater foe than Russia (32%).
Russia does pose a threat to the United States, but its invasion of Ukraine has exposed its military weakness. While many Americans expected Russian troops to take Kyiv in the early weeks of the campaign, Ukrainians have proven remarkably strong in countering Moscow’s offensives. Perhaps Republicans aren’t as concerned about Russia because China poses a greater threat.
How many Russian spy balloons have crossed the U.S. recently? How many Russian police stations are operating on U.S. soil? How many global pandemics have spread from Vladivostok or St. Petersburg in recent years?
Political trends also explain the divide Beinart finds so perplexing. Democrats and their allies spent years propping up a false narrative about Trump as a Russian asset. Meanwhile, they have proven rather reticent to discuss Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China while then-Vice President Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on the Middle Kingdom.
As Democratic district attorneys and U.S. attorneys file charges against Trump, more and more information about Joe Biden’s alleged involvement in son Hunter’s business dealings is finally seeing the light of day. If Democrats are concerned about a president being compromised by a hostile foreign power, perhaps they should take a look at their own standard-bearer.
As an evangelical Christian myself, I find Russia’s crackdown on Christians outside of the Russian Orthodox Church heinous, but China’s religious oppression far worse. As an American of Belorussian and Irish descent, I’m not sure at what point during the 20th century I would suddenly count as “white,” but I can tell you that Chinese Communist Party oppression infuriates me, whatever the race of the victim.
Chinese Communist oppression through a massive surveillance state, its infiltration into American schools, and its sick policies during the COVID-19 pandemic infuriate me even more. Lest we forget, China had the gall to request personal protective equipment from other countries early on in the pandemic, and other countries sent the equipment—to the tune of 4 BILLIION pieces—without question.
When other countries requested help from China, however, it came with strings attached.
Perhaps Beinart should ask less about what’s wrong with Americans like me and more about why we fear the Chinese Communist Party. He might be surprised at just how big a threat it truly is.
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