Does Japan Want to Be Cut Out of the Alliance System?
Japan’s Risky Ties with China

As we continue to witness its widespread human rights violations, the Chinese Communist Party increasingly poses an immense threat to the free world. The world needs to form a united front to protect democratic and universal values. Yet the big question still remains: How? With this question in mind, the Liberty Magazine spoke with a U.S. security expert, Robert S. Spalding III, who was the architect of the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy.


Robert S. Spalding

Robert S. Spalding

Robert S. Spalding has served in senior positions of strategy and diplomacy within the U.S. Defense and State Departments for more than 26 years, retiring as a Brigadier General. He was the chief architect for the Trump Administration’s widely praised National Security Strategy (NSS) – the pillar for America’s national defense, and the Senior Director for Strategy to the President at the National Security Council (NSC). He holds a doctorate in economics and mathematics from the University of Missouri. Author of “Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept”, he will soon publish “War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination” in April 2022.


――As it is described in your forthcoming book, “War Without Rules,” the Chinese Communist Party is mounting unrestricted warfare against the U.S. Although the Biden administration is seemingly taking a tough stance against China just like its predecessor, it is also said to be only a pretense; Senator Rubio actually accuses Mr. Biden of blocking the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.” From the eyes of a strategist, who served in the NSC during the Trump presidency, could you share your views with us on the difference between the Biden Administration and the Trump administration in terms of its strategy toward China?

Gen. Spalding: In terms of the strategy, they’re very similar. What I think you’re alluding to in your question is implementation. Implementation of the strategy has really been confounded by the fact that U.S. corporations are incentivized by their relationship with China, particularly having access to Chinese markets, and having access to Chinese investment. They’re incentivized to disrupt and influence in a negative way the political process in the United States and in other democracies.

Not just in America but also in Japan, Germany, and other democracies because the corporations see their businesses in China as very profitable. Therefore they lobby their governments to ensure these policies are not able to be implemented. I would venture to say that even in those democracies that wish to see a more equitable relationship with China, they find themselves at odds with their own companies who are influenced by the Chinese Communist Party to put pressure on their governments to enable them to continue to do business.


Japanese Business People Once Asked “Don’t Force Us to Choose Between the United States and China”

――Let me ask you about your national strategy to protect the American people from Chinese surveillance in the Trump administration. We are wondering if the Biden administration has fully understood the significance of your strategy. Do you think the Biden administration is truly aware of the CCP’s ambition to steal all data from American citizens and formulate a concrete and all-embracing countermeasure?

Gen. Spalding: I think they are aware. As I alluded to in my prior answer, the current political process and economic activity in free societies are separated, whereas in China, they’re very much working together. The Chinese Communist Party influences both the government and the corporate sectors in free societies. This is why we have issues when the government of free societies try to impose a policy or attempts to get their own corporations to accept a policy that might protect citizens from surveillance or might prevent international corporations from supporting surveillance in China with their technology.

What governments of free countries find is their corporation’s economic and financial relationships with China mean they have to try to fight the policies that the free governments are trying to establish, which is to prevent that support of that technology. For instance, in Xinjiang. Intel, for example, issued an apology and Walmart is coming under pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. Disney thanked the Public Security Bureau in Xinjiang, the very ones who are committing genocide.

It is because of these economic and financial relationships with China that these corporations seek. And I would imagine that it’s not just U.S. corporations. Again, it’s Japanese corporations. It’s German corporations. I myself have talked to Japanese business people when I was in the White House. And they said, “Please, don’t force us to choose between the United States and China.” And I asked them, “Well, would you have the Chinese PLA Navy protecting Japan?” And they said, “No, no, no. We don’t want the PLA Navy protecting Japan.” And I said, “Well, when you have an economic and financial relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, it is as if you’re having the PLA Navy protecting Japan because that is who your partner inevitably becomes.”

――I understand. It is really stunning that Japanese business people told you, “Please, don’t proceed with the process of decoupling from China because we have to choose the U.S. or China.” It is not that kind of issue already. So let me confirm. Did you mean basically the Biden administration is trying to proceed with the process of decoupling from China as was the position of the former president?

Gen. Spalding: I would not say that the Biden administration is proceeding to decouple because the Trump administration wasn’t proceeding with decoupling either. Therein lies the problem.

While the strategy would basically lead you to a point where the two economies must be decoupled in order to prevent the influence of free societies, unfortunately, when it comes to implementation, it fails. While decoupling ends up being a result of a strategy pursued as was laid out by the Trump administration, inevitably, neither the Trump administration nor the Biden administration pursued decoupling because of the pressure they received from the corporate sector. The strategy ultimately is supposed to drive both the United States and her allies and partners to invest in their own societies and to forego investing in China. That logically leads inevitably to decoupling. But they are afraid of actually carrying it out because of the pressure that they receive from the corporate sector.


Informal Meetings in NSC: Winning without War

――You once told “Applico”, the YouTube channel, that your job at the NSC was to educate your colleagues on what was going on and let them figure out where they were responsible. Could you tell us to what extent those people working at the NSC were aware of the Chinese threat at that time? And how did you convince those people who fell into the trap of the Chinese Communist Party?

Gen. Spalding: They were aware of the military threat from China, but what they weren’t aware of is the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party was influencing the corporate sector. And in order to essentially teach them and other national security professionals, we had a series of meetings at the National Security Council, informal meetings called “Winning Without War.”

We focused on economic warfare, psychological warfare, lawfare, trade warfare, all the different elements of warfare other than military to demonstrate there are many ways you can create advantages for your society vis-à-vis a liberal democratic society by abusing the Liberal Democratic Order and not following the rules. That’s why the name of my new book is War Without Rules. It is really about breaking all the rules while saying that you’re following them. Once they were able to see and understand that we face this challenge, which is really unprecedented in the post-World War II order, then they began to understand and to implement changes in policies. And this process continues in Washington, DC.

Now that being said, there are many, particularly China scholars, who believe that we should not recognize China is using these means to undermine our society and that, in fact, China is a benign actor when it comes to our liberal democratic institutions. In addition to the corporate behavior that is countering this effort to deal with the China threat, you also have the China scholar communities that are actively promoting closer ties between the United States and China. I would imagine there are probably scholars in Japan and other free societies that are doing the same thing. They’re saying, “No, we shouldn’t worry about China. They’re not a threat. They just want to do business with us.” And the primary reason why those scholars do that is because if they don’t follow the Chinese Communist Party line, then they will not be allowed to enter China in order to meet with Communist Party officials. They believe this will negatively impact their career. The Chinese Communist Party uses visas for China scholars as a way to influence the narrative that they choose to uphold with regard to China.

Now, policymakers, my former colleagues at the National Security Council, prior to having these discussions at the White House, would listen to these China scholars because they believed them to be the experts on China. The way that the Chinese Communist Party was able to influence the national security professionals was by influencing them through China scholars by convincing them that if they supported the Chinese Communist Party, or at least didn’t anger them, then they would continue to have access to China.

――What kind of advice would you give to the President?

Gen. Spalding: Well, what I would say is we have to realize that any trade, any investment, any interaction with China, brings with it the threat of undue influence into our political independence and sovereignty. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party seeks to undermine our democracy from within and uses those connections, whether they be person-to-person connections, whether they be academic, whether they be military, whether they be financial or corporate, or whether they be scientific and technological.

Any connection with China that the Chinese Communist Party can use to undermine the independence and political sovereignty of a free nation, they will. There is no way to separate cooperation from competition with China, because in all the areas that we might cooperate, whether it be climate change or North Korea, China will use that cooperation to negatively influence the political process of a free society.

We have to recognize that cooperation with China is just not possible under the current regime. Instead, we have to focus on strengthening our own domestic institutions that support the liberal democratic process, ensuring that our relationship with China does not disrupt our institutions for promoting the rule of law, that don’t support this idea of free trade, that don’t support this idea of privacy or data security or data sovereignty. All of these issues are issues that the Chinese Communist Party uses to undermine free societies.


The CCP Cannot Compete with Us without the Fruits of Free Societies

――You already pointed out that the U.S. military is no longer the strongest in the Pacific since the Chinese Communist Party has been working hard to achieve military superiority. And in your book, it is also pointed out that the U.S. military cannot fight without importing from China. How has this situation changed?

Gen. Spalding: Well, the situation hasn’t changed. I think that when it comes to the Indo-Pacific theater, and particularly even out to the second island chain, I think the Chinese Communist Party has built a very, very massive arsenal of weapons and military capability that right now, unfortunately, is insurmountable for the U.S. and her allies. This was the case also during the first Cold War. Instead of trying to match the conventional weaponry of the Soviet Union, the US relied on deterrence.

It was often talked about when meeting the Soviet Union in the Fulda Gap in Europ, we were not going to build as many conventional arms to meet that threat. Instead, we were going to use nuclear deterrence and focus on investment in our own society and in the societies of our allies and partners to grow economic competitiveness. Ultimately, the Cold War was an economic competition, not so much a military competition. And it was an economic competition where the United States and her allies invested in the liberal democratic institutions and science and technology and in their own people to create a more productive and more beneficial society. And over time, the fact that it was more beneficial to their citizens was proven by the fact that most of the citizens of the Soviet Union recognized that the Soviet way was not a good way.

And what China has done is basically use the innovation, technology, talent, and capital of the free world to build its own society through these relationships with our economic and corporate and financial institutions so that now it appears as if, like a smokescreen, the Chinese communist system is better than the Liberal Democratic Order. But in fact, they have been parasitically feeding off the Liberal Democratic Order. And there again is why we must cut those ties so that once again, citizens living in free societies must enjoy the fruits of their own labor. Over time the Chinese people will become just like the people of the Soviet Union, and recognize the corrupt and stultifying nature of the Chinese communist regime. Ultimately state-owned enterprises – and China is 75% state-owned enterprises – are far more inefficient than the U.S. and other multinational corporations who essentially have to compete in the marketplace. This is the society that China cannot compete with if they don’t have the ability to take advantage of the innovation, technology, talent, and capital of free people in free societies.


You Will Have to Choose: the U.S. military or PLA

――We believe that the U.S. is facing a three-pronged attack; China, Russia, and Iran. Under the Biden administration, however, Russia and China are getting closer than before. Also, the world is heading toward the Cold-War structure, with continued chaos, like Myanmar’s military coup and Taliban control of Afghanistan. We don’t have any intention to criticize the Biden administration, but we assume that a volatile situation would not happen if President Trump could have continued his presidency; he intended to invite Russia back into the G7. Could you share your thoughts with us on this perspective?

Gen. Spalding: If you go back to the Cold War, we had, from essentially Eisenhower’s administration all the way to the Obama administration, a very consistent policy with how we dealt with, for instance, nuclear deterrence. Throughout the Cold War, all the way up through the end of the Cold War, whether it was a Democratic administration or Republican administration, we had a very consistent strategy when dealing with the Soviet Union.

While the Soviet Union collapsed under the Reagan administration, in essence, we were able to keep our allies and partners together opposing the Soviet Union using the method that I just described. What’s happening now, and what really began in the Trump administration and is continuing through the Biden administration, is a change in the strategy of the United States to accept and recognize that the Chinese Communist Party seeks to undermine the Liberal Democratic Order in league with Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other authoritarian regimes, and that this will take a long-term, concerted effort to counter.

I don’t know that we can say with certainty what would’ve happened under a Trump administration differently than under a Biden administration. What I can say is I see in Washington, DC, a consistent trend. And one of the things that I think that U.S. corporations are missing is the fact that this trend is happening in Washington, DC. I think it’s irreversible. I think that whether the next administration is a Democratic or Republican administration, they are going to continue to have increasing pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. And I think ultimately the United States will judge its allies and partners on the basis of whether they join them in this long-term competition or confrontation or whatever you want to call it. They’re going to judge their allies and partners on the basis of whether or not they join them. And to the extent that they choose not to, then they will find themselves on the outside of the ability to share in the technology, talent, capital, and innovation of that new grouping of free societies.

I think we will see some nations that may have been on the side of the United States and our allies during the Cold War may choose to side with China. You cannot have an economic relationship with China and a military relationship with the United States. You must have a military and economic relationship with China because you will be cut out of the alliance system. And so many countries in Asia choose to play both sides. “I want to be an economic partner for China, a military partner from the United States.” What I tried to explain to delegations from Asia when they came to the United States is, “You will have to choose. And if you choose China as an economic partner, then you must choose the PLA Navy, the PLA Air Force, as the preferred partner for your security.”


The Most Existential Threat to Democracy That the Free World Has Ever Seen

――That is the biggest concern for us as well. The Japanese government is kind of trying to take both sides, the U.S. and China, trying to take profit from the Chinese market, but also relying on the U.S. military force. We don’t believe it’s a good way. So yes, we’re asking the Japanese government not to do behave like that.

The next question is about coronavirus. A number of people, including American citizens, have died from coronavirus. It is reported that under the Trump administration, an executive order was drafted to establish “The National Commission on the Origins and Costs of COVID-19,” and you were a leading nominee for the commission members. If coronavirus is truly a Chinese biological weapon, we could say that the Biden administration is not fully aware of that significance. How would you see the current situation?

Gen. Spalding: Well, I think when it comes to the coronavirus, I’ve been quite clear that we probably will never know the origin of the virus. What we can know is how the Chinese Communist Party reacted to the virus. And that is by obfuscating everything with regard to casualties, even their numbers. And today, they say that only 4,000 people have died in China in spite of a population of almost 1.4 billion. It’s ridiculous as everything that we know points to the fact that the coronavirus spreads consistently no matter where you are. And the numbers don’t change from country to country. But for some reason, China only experienced 4,000 deaths. And in fact, journalists believe that this is a credit to the Chinese system, the Chinese political model. And if we could just adopt the Chinese model, then we could also prevent deaths. This is counter to everything that we know about the spread of viruses. And the reason is because the Chinese Communist Party has been very effective at using the U.S. and the international system to spread and control this narrative about their system, in particular, how they were able to stop the coronavirus.

They used institutions like the Imperial College of London, which has done many epidemiology studies or models that have been wildly biased. There has been little recognition that Xi Jinping visited The Imperial College of London all the way back in 2015. The Chinese Communist Party has, in multiple ways, influenced social media. They’ve influenced corporations. And they’ve influenced the CDC, and World Health Organization to not name the location of where the virus originated. They have used the CDC, the WHO, and other health organizations to deny that gain-of-function research was going on and that there’s a possibility that the leak could have come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. So, it’s very clear, we may never know, the origin of the virus. Whether it naturally occurred, whether it escaped from a lab, whether it was deliberately released, nobody knows that. What we can know is that the Chinese Communist Party used their connection to us, both corporate, financial, and informational, through social media, and through legacy media to influence pandemic policies.

One of the things recently brought forth is that a board member of Pfizer is also a board member of Thompson Reuters. Thompson Reuters is the organization that is the fact-checker for Twitter. A board member of Pfizer also being a board member for Thompson Reuters is problematic. There are what I would say conflict-of-interest issues. The Chinese Communist Party has exploited the intermingling of investment funds in this way through very large investment organizations to ensure that we have a very consistent narrative with regard to the coronavirus. And anybody that brings up criticism or critique of any policy that’s established to help control the coronavirus, that kind of dissent of policy is not allowed.

And this is where I think that we can begin to better understand these ties that I’ve been talking about between the Chinese Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Order. The CCP now has a direct connection with both the financial elements and the informational elements of the free world. Therefore, if corporations are incentivized and those corporation’s pressure their governments, you begin to see that the Chinese message has now become one world message. In other words, the Chinese way of government is better because they were more effective at the coronavirus, meaning all nations should adopt the Chinese communist political system. This is how they have successfully used the coronavirus to create this perception and to control this narrative. And that’s why I call it the most dangerous, the most existential threat to democracy the free world has ever seen.

It is way worse than the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union never had the ability to reach into an Intel, to reach into an Apple, to reach into a Coca-Cola or NBA and say, “You will say what we want you to say.” Those have always been politically independent and sovereign and promoted the values and principles of the Liberal Democratic Order. Today, they’re promoting the values and principles of the Chinese Communist Party. Yet they exist in the free world. And so today it appears as if Hollywood is essentially advocating for totalitarianism. The sporting teams and the sporting associations are advocating for totalitarianism. And U.S. corporations and other multinational corporations are advocating for totalitarianism despite being in a free society. This is the challenge that we face, and that’s why it’s so important.

――We definitely agree with you, we need to prevent our free society from being smashed by the totalitarian system. What would happen to the United States if the United States retaliated for the coronavirus against China?

Gen. Spalding: I don’t believe that there will be any military war between the U.S. and China because both have nuclear weapons. It would be far too devastating for them to have what I would call a military war. That’s why the Chinese Communist Party uses all of these other means, because they know to attack America militarily would be suicide. It would be suicide for the Chinese Communist Party. This is not something that I think is going to happen. But that being said, China could easily attack Taiwan. They don’t have nuclear weapons. There is nothing preventing them from doing so. And this is my concern about allies and partners in Asia.

――Thank you.

Does Japan Want to Be Cut Out of the Alliance System?
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