“In whichever way others hit us, we will hit, we will give tit for tat, and defeat them by surprise moves,” China’s leader Xi Jinping said in August 2013 at a conference on national propaganda and ideology, a year after becoming general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We cannot hold up the larger strategic picture because of tactical rigidity. This means that ‘Even if we are right, we will not use this at times; even if we are wrong, we must go ahead sometimes.’”
Xi’s remarks would have come as no surprise to Ronald Reagan, who famously said of the Soviet leadership that the only morality it recognized was “what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”
Writing in the London Times last month, Edward Lucas observed that while Communism itself is dead, those same Leninist doctrines of political warfare to gain and exercise power, what became known as “active measures,” are still alive in the Chinese Communist Party.
Last week, Lord Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, reminded us how badly wrong China watchers had gotten their assessment of the Beijing leadership. The Chinese Communists might be thuggish dictators, these experts said, but they were men of their word and could be trusted to do what they promised.
Patten busts that myth, citing four chilling examples of the Chinese Communist Party’s duplicity:
its denial of the existence of some 380 internment camps to imprison over 1 million Muslim Uighurs;
its breaking of World Health Organization rules by not notifying the body within 24 hours of the COVID-19 pandemic;
Xi’s breaking his word to President Obama that he would refrain from militarizing the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea;
and Xi’s tearing up the promise China made to Hong Kong and the international community that the city would enjoy its liberties until 2047.
“The last thing the world should do is trust the Communist Party of China,” Patten concludes.
Yet that is exactly what the international community wants to do when it comes to climate change, by taking at face value Xi’s U.N. address, in which he said that China would aim to achieve “carbon neutrality” before 2060. It’s not hard to see Xi’s motives. Five years on from the Paris climate accord, it’s time for the second round of five-year climate pledges. Western leaders – with the exception of Donald Trump – are competing with one another to make climate promises that will effectively sunset much of their economies. Xi wants to help them. As Lucas points out, in a 1920 tract, Lenin accused left-wing Communists of suffering from an infantile disorder for focusing too heavily on ideology rather than agitating to pull apart the seams of the capitalist world.
Lenin’s successors play the environment card because they know it works. In 1975, the Soviet Union used the environment as a strategic propaganda tool when Leonid Brezhnev claimed the environment as something on which East and West shared a common purpose. It was a transparent attempt to deflect Western pressure on the Soviet Union’s brutal human rights record.
The Kremlin’s most daring use of environmental “active measures” was the nuclear winter scare of the early 1980s. In a bid to split the Atlantic Alliance and win the Cold War, the Soviet Union deployed medium-range nuclear missiles. The West responded with a nuclear arms build-up of its own. In June 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciences published a paper predicting a nuclear winter across the northern hemisphere in the aftermath of a nuclear exchange.
The paper was picked up by the Rockefeller Family Fund and amplified by Carl Sagan and many American scientists. An October 1982 nuclear-winter conference in Washington called for a nuclear arms freeze. Conference attendees represented a roll call of progressive groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, Common Cause, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, all of which would later stand at the forefront of the climate wars.
It was obvious, or should have been obvious, which side would benefit from an arms freeze. The conference even had a TV satellite link-up with the Kremlin, funded by Tides, another progressive group. Wittingly or not, the scientists, foundations, and NGOs were acting as mouthpieces of the Kremlin in its aim of defeating the West in the Cold War. In fact, the nuclear winter scare had been concocted by the KGB to cause terror in the West and promote the nuclear freeze. If the scientists, NGOs, and foundations behind the nuclear winter scare had succeeded in halting Ronald Reagan’s arms build-up, the West could not have won the Cold War without a shot being fired.
Western politicians who denounce the Chinese Communist Party for its genocide of the Uighurs and its tearing up of international commitments on Hong Kong want us to believe that China is somehow an angel when it comes to climate change. The reason for this suspension of disbelief is simple. If the word of the Chinese Communist Party is not believed, the rationale for climate action evaporates.
Lenin’s heirs in Beijing have a far better understanding of Western leaders than Western leaders have of them. China’s expansionism will continue unchecked until the West has leaders with the moral clarity that it was blessed with in the 1980s, who called out the Soviet empire for what it was. For the time being, history is moving China’s way.