Beijing’s Secret Weapon: The ‘R-2020’


Counter-Trump China Press Narrative Soon Coming

China’s DF-21 missiles, J-20 stealth fighters, hypersonic weapons, and aircraft carriers get the attention, but Beijing might add another awesome weapon to its arsenal.  The ‘R-2020.’

There were earlier hints, but Reuters says to expect the unveiling shortly. 

 ‘R-2020’?  The “Restoration 2020.” If Beijing waits 16 months and Mr. Trump loses the next election, we will see a “restoration” of the “China hands” whose policies created the current difficulties with the PRC. 

Reuters reports a letter is coming out – to be placed in a major newspaper and signed by dozens of American Asia specialists – civilian and military – lambasting the Trump Administration for its counterproductive China policy. 

Competing foreign policy approaches are nothing new in Washington – as are ill-tempered full-page ads in major newspapers.

But what’s rare in this case is that one of the approaches to dealing with China can be vetted against 45 years of empirical evidence:  

And that is grim reading:

South China Sea now under de-facto Chinese control

First, the South China Sea is now under de facto Chinese control.  And the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is now a military power to reckon with – and grows stronger as it continues the fastest, largest military build-up in history – despite facing no enemies.  Its military prowess encompasses outer space, cyber, and sub-surface domains, and technologies the U.S. once dominated.  Xi Xinping has declared the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) must be world’s most powerful military by 2049.  Nobody is laughing at him.

Second, China is now an economic powerhouse and predator with worldwide reach – and it plays by its own rules.  It was aided by U.S. -enabled WTO entry and American companies stampeding into the PRC market, regardless of cost or risk.  Besides hollowing out America’s manufacturing base, the U.S. economy became dangerously dependent on China. 

Third, rather than ‘liberalizing,’ the PRC is now a totalitarian state – backed up with advanced technology (some of it American).  And it is totalitarian in a way that is beyond Orwellian. 

And all this happened before Donald Trump was elected.

This was not inevitable.  Rather it’s the result of lovingly crafted policies by a couple generations of “China hands” – convinced they knew China and how to “manage” its rise.

Expect some of their signatures on the “R-2020 letter.” 

And now they are itching to get back into government positions or positions of influence abruptly (and of course unfairly) denied when Trump won the 2016 election.

There were hints the “restoration” movement was gathering speed even before the Reuters story.

A month ago, retired U.S. Diplomat Susan Thornton delivered a speech in Shanghai, telling the audience they will have to wait for the next election before things get righted between the U.S. and the PRC.

Imagine that.  Ms. Thornton nearly became the State Department’s top Asia official in 2018 before tripping over charges of being too soft on China.  Yet, within a year after retiring she goes to China and instructs the PRC government on how to foil American policy:  just wait a while and those nasty people who are upsetting you will be gone – and replaced by more flexible, nuanced people whom you were accustomed to.

And recently a former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs referred to President Trump as an authoritarian leader akin to Xi Xinping.  Perhaps.  But only on the day an American is tossed into a “black prison” for not studying his mandatory daily dose of “Donald Trump Thought.”

This is the same gentleman the Chinese suckered over Scarborough Shoals in 2012 – causing immense harm to U.S. interests in Asia.  He was reportedly in line for Secretary of State under a President Clinton, and now advises companies on dealing with China.  Go figure.

And there is no shortage of companies, hedge funds, and Wall Street firms eager for a “restoration.” They whinge non-stop about tariffs, but not Uighurs in prison camps or a Nobel Prize winner being murdered via denial of medical care. 

And while Capitol Hill talks a good game on China, one sometimes wonders.  More than a few prominent politicians and ex-politicians have financial ties to the PRC.  The names: Biden, Boehner, Feinstein, McConnell, and even Joe Lieberman come to mind.

Mea culpa?

What one never hears from the “restorationists” is: ‘’I was wrong.  No excuses.  I’m sorry”

The Excuses

Instead it’s:

“China policy was never intended to transform the PRC”

“Nobody could have foreseen what would happen.”

“WE were ALL wrong” (therefore, nobody is to blame).

“There at least hasn’t been a war.”

“Couldn’t have been done any better.”

“Hindsight is 20/20” (though we castigated everyone who was telling us differently).

“This was all in fact a great success.”

And the old failsafe:  “If we had treated China like an enemy – it would have become one.”

If the China we face today is the result of treating it like a “friend” – and accommodating it at every turn – one scarcely imagines the PRC if America treated it like an “enemy.”

One wishes some administration had done so.

Terms of surrender

However, an American conceit was on display with the PRC:  that if you extend the open hand of friendship and get the other guy to the table, any problem can be worked out.  Maybe so, if dealing with Canadians, British, and sometimes Frenchmen. 

But with the CCP, if one isn’t in a position of strength, willing to walk away – and to fight if necessary, the only thing to “work out” is the terms of surrender. 

And that’s also what the popular “Thucydides Trap” is all about.  Give in to the PRC – there being no alternative to thermo-nuclear war.

So when the “restorationist” letter appears, the pedigrees, resumes, and titles will be impressive. 

But it’s best to look at the results of their “productive” approach of the previous near-half century. 

Indeed, a “restoration” should be cause for celebration only in Beijing.