China's regime asks, cajoles, threatens, and intimidates ethnic Chinese populations outside China to commit crimes for "the Motherland." The overwhelming majority of Americans of Chinese descent—especially those who have fled China recently— are loyal to America, but some Chinese in America flaunt their support for Chinese communism. (Image source: iStock)
"Promoting the great unity of the Chinese people is the historic responsibility of China's patriotic united front work in the new era," said Chinese ruler Xi Jinping at the end of last month to Communist Party cadres in Beijing. "To do the job well, we must... truly unite all Chinese people in different parties, nationalities, classes, groups, and with different beliefs, and those who are living under different social systems."
"Different social systems" is Party lingo for "other countries."
Xi's words sound benign, but the intent is not. In short, Xi, at the Party's United Front Work Conference, said he hoped to unite—in other words, mobilize—ethnic Chinese everywhere to support the CCP, to effectively make every Chinese individual a CCP agent.
"The Chinese Communist Party just doesn't accept that people who adopt foreign citizenship are no longer beholden to the motherland as represented by the Chinese Communist Party," said Charles Burton of the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute to "CBS Eye on the World" on August 17. "There is no escape from this ethnic identification based on being descendants of the Yellow Emperor."
Xi's predecessors also appealed to overseas Chinese, so in one sense there was nothing new in his words last month. Yet there is nonetheless cause for great concern. Mao Zedong in fact tried to use ethnic Chinese populations outside China to overthrow their governments. Xi reveres Mao, has adopted many of Mao's tactics, and is surely as determined as Mao in using Chinese people to do his bidding. Xi is serious in seeing all the world's Chinese as a single unified force.
Many of those "different social systems"—especially the United States—are squeamish when it comes to singling people out because of their race. Yet American policymakers cannot ignore the fact that the Communist Party's appeal to overseas Chinese is overtly race-based.
"We all share the same ancestors, history, and culture, we all are sons and daughters of the Chinese nation and descendants of the dragon," said Yang Jiechi, now China's top diplomat, in 2013 to a group of overseas ethnic Chinese children attending a government-sponsored "roots-tracing" tour event.
The regime sponsors these tours to indoctrinate. Foreign children, in Taishan in Guangdong province during a tour late last decade, were asked to sing the 1980s-era "Descendants of the Dragon." The appeal to race is unmistakable, as this portion of the lyrics makes clear: "With brown eyes, black hair, and yellow skin, we are forever descendants of the dragon."
In fact, China's regime asks, cajoles, threatens, and intimidates dragon descendants to commit crimes for "the Motherland." As successful American prosecutions indicate, some ethnic Chinese are especially susceptible to those appeals.
In February, however, the Justice Department ended its Trump-era "China Initiative," which concentrated law enforcement efforts on Chinese espionage. Yet given Xi Jinping's call on overseas Chinese to work for China, it is time to reinstitute that program and devote more resources to it.
Many have called the initiative "racist," but any new program would be merely responding to the Communist Party's race-based appeals.
The overwhelming majority of Americans of Chinese descent—especially those who have fled China recently— are loyal to America, but some Chinese in America flaunt their support for Chinese communism. The flying of flags of the People's Republic of China in Chinatowns across the U.S.—especially San Francisco's before the pandemic—was particularly disturbing and suggestive of disloyalty to the American republic.
Can Americans of Chinese descent be loyal to both America and China?
No. China's Communist Party has made itself an existential threat to America and every other society. The Chinese regime, especially in recent years under General Secretary Xi, has been pushing the notion that it holds the Mandate of Heaven to rule tianxia, "All Under Heaven." The promotion of tianxia means, among other things, that the Party views the U.S. government as illegitimate and America as nothing more than a tributary society or colony.
To make matters worse, the Chinese state has been open about its hostility to the United States. Among other things, in May 2019 People's Daily, the Party's self-described "mouthpiece" and therefore most authoritative publication in China, declared a "people's war" on America.
Let me end on a personal note, as dragon blood proudly flows in my veins. My dad, who arrived in this country in early 1945, came from a small farming village in Jiangsu province, across the mighty Yangtze River from Shanghai. My mother's family traces its roots to Dundee, in Scotland, but I have not identified with that half of my heritage. I grew up in New Jersey, steeped in Dad's stories of the Yellow Emperor and of course tales of dragons.
Nonetheless, my story-telling dad never missed an opportunity to vote or tell his four children how wonderful his adopted country was. He always said "China is my birthplace but America is my home."
We "Chinese-Americans"—I abhor the term—need to remember where we now live. We cannot remain oblivious, as we so far have had the luxury of doing.
Although we technically do not have an obligation to prove our loyalty to America, we must, as a group, understand that a hostile power is trying to weaponize us. Xi Jinping has openly called on us to become a subversive force, to help him destroy the country we now call home.
It is time, therefore, for us to begin cleaning our own ranks. This means, among other things, not tolerating displays promoting Chinese communism in our country. Moreover, it means not shouting "racism" every time law enforcement arrests someone of Chinese descent. If we do not take the lead in these tasks, others will naturally do that for us.
We may think it unfair, but we now have to make a choice.
After all, our country—the United States of America—is in peril because a foreign state—the People's Republic of China—is attacking it and hoping to use us to take it down.
The Communist Party of China refers to us as "overseas patriotic forces." People in our communities will want to know to which country we feel patriotic.
Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China, a Gatestone Institute distinguished senior fellow, and a member of its Advisory Board.