It was impossible to miss — a giant white balloon with a massive solar array and a yet-to-be-publicly-disclosed sensor package flying over some of America's most sensitive military sites. In the time since China's spy balloon traversed Alaska, Canada and the continental United States, details surrounding the surveillance overflight are murky at best as the Biden Administration has provided confused, conflicted and muddled statements to Americans and even Congress.
What is clear is that, intentionally or not, China has shown America's need to get serious about the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its expansionist global aims.
As the latest provocation by the CCP plays out, it gets more disturbing. The media, and even US President Joe Biden, describe the CCP as a "competitor" and downplay any possible conflict. When the CCP flies spy balloons across the continent, opens police stations in our cities, infiltrates our universities, poisons more than 100,000 Americans with hard drugs each year, and announces its plans to replace the United States, it is hard to argue we are in anything but a "Cold War" with the CCP, as Speaker McCarthy and Rep. Mike Gallagher, Chair of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, argue.
It is time for the U.S. government and our allies to definitively outline the clear challenge and danger the CCP poses to the West. The behavior demonstrated by the CCP spy balloon is not an aberration; it is part of a dangerous pattern. This includes the CCP's longtime intellectual property theft; breaches of cybersecurity; its increasing global military presence (here, here and here); expanding and modernizing its military, and its purchases of farmland near US military sites. Given that this is the reality, the Biden Administration must act more forcefully in response to the CCP's aggressive behavior or, through passivity, it will invite an even greater challenge from China.
The CCP's actions during COVID-19 cry out for further review and scrutiny in the West. They show the same pattern of reckless disregard for the global community and came with far deadlier consequences. Early in the pandemic, the CCP falsely claimed there was no indication of human-to-human transmission and that the virus had no relationship to SARS. Some Chinese doctors said they were reprimanded by CCP officials for sharing information about the outbreak, with Chinese state TV labeling them "rumor mongers."
The CCP prohibited the sharing of the genetic sequencing pending government approval and in the early days, the CCP worked with the World Health Organization to control the information flow and downplay the seriousness of the infection. Most disturbingly, even though they knew about the seriousness of the disease, the CCP allowed thousands of people to leave Wuhan on international flights even as it severely curtailed domestic travel. The CCP's actions resulted in the rapid spread of the virus around the world, especially into Europe, which beyond reckless disregard, raise legitimate questions about China's intent. To date, nearly 6.8 million people have died of COVID-19 worldwide; more than 1.1 million in the United States.
On the economic front, countless national economies were reportedly wrecked on purpose by the CCP's spreading the virus, apparently to stifle economic competition.
The FBI extensively details the threats posed by the CCP to U.S. businesses and industry, and warns:
"The counterintelligence and economic espionage efforts emanating from the government of China and the Chinese Communist Party are a grave threat to the economic well-being and democratic values of the United States."
Confronting this threat must become the FBI's top counterintelligence priority and not just a page on its website.
China's efforts to target U.S. businesses, academic institutions, researchers, lawmakers and the general public require
s a whole-of-society response. The heady decades of Nixonian engagement are gone, and the government and private sector must commit to working together to better understand and counter the threat. During the Trump Administration, it was estimated that China's theft of intellectual property costs the U.S. up to $600 billion annually. These are real costs that impact the jobs and livelihoods of all Americans.
Lastly, it is imperative to highlight the opioid crisis that is decimating communities across America and is fueled by the CCP. It is estimated that 99% of the fentanyl entering the U.S. comes from precursor drugs originating in China, according to Rep. David Trone (D-Md). Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for young Americans in the United States. In 2021 there were 70,601 fentanyl overdose deaths in the United States, which is almost double the number of deaths recorded in 2019. We must hold the CCP accountable.
It is also important to be clear that our adversary is not the Chinese people or people of Chinese descent or heritage. The threat comes from and is directed by the Chinese Communist Party and the programs and policies it pursues globally. In fact, Chinese citizens are often on the receiving end of the CCP's brutal policies, including the millions imprisoned in their apartments by their government, and unable to get food or medicine. Some, unable to leave, were burned to death. Especially horrific treatment has been visited on China's Uyghur Muslim population who are being subjected to torture, mass repression and genocide.
Given the CCP's clear efforts against America, why does there continue to be such a muted response from the Biden Administration? While they haven't explicitly said it, one reason might be climate change.
In the Annual Threat Assessment prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, climate change is identified as one of the key threats to our national security -- after usual suspects China, Russia, North Korea and Iran:
"We assess that climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge."
Other reports, however, strongly contradict the Annual Threat Assessment. These assert 1) that "apocalyptic claims about climate change are wrong" and that climate change is "a fraud"; 2) that China has less than no interest in cutting emissions; 3) that green energy actually consists of a huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich to "destroy capitalism" and punish the West for having "pulled millions out of poverty and shaped the modern world"; 4) that cutting back on fossil fuels hurts the poor , it hits them worst ; and 5) that climate change is basically caused by sun flares and there is not a blessed thing you can do about them. Vested interests can offer grants for "scientific papers" to promote their businesses; sun-flares cannot offer grants.
Climate expert Bjørn Lomborg wrote:
"Many more people die from cold than from heat. A new study in the highly respected journal Lancet shows that about half a million people die from heat per year, but 4.5 million people die from cold. As temperatures have increased over the past two decades... it turns out that because global warming has... reduced cold waves, we now see 283,000 fewer cold deaths.... You don't hear this, but so far climate change saves 166,000 lives each year."
Looking forward, hydrogen energy might work; presently more energy is needed to create it than it transmits. Fusion energy, harnessed only recently, promises to provide what will be a seismic revolution in clean energy creation. Meanwhile, we need fossil fuels.
John Kerry, President Biden's special climate envoy, is nevertheless on record stating, "China is 30% of all emissions. We need to get China." -- meaning that we need to get China to negotiate and cooperate on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Kerry believes climate issues should be given special treatment in policy considerations:
"Climate is a universal issue, a universal threat. Without political ideology, without political party. It does not represent global competition. It represents a global threat to the world, which the two largest emitters and two largest economies could greatly benefit the world by coming together and cooperating to try to deal with it."
It is this thinking within the Biden Administration that likely contributes to the lack of a strong response even as there seems to be an emerging, bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill regarding the escalating CCP threat. No matter where one falls on climate change, the CCP's brazen spy balloon flight has left little doubt about the threat the Chinese Communist regime poses. It is past time for all Americans to recognize and respond to this threat.
Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.