Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Global

While America…seriously?

By Lisa Van Dusen      

As the cost-benefit results of China's geopolitical rise clarify daily, the most alarming thing may be America's alarm.

U.S. intelligence officials testify on Jan. 29 before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. They include, from left: FBI director Christopher Wray, CIA director Gina Haspel, national intelligence director Dan Coats, Defense Intelligence Agency director general Robert Ashley, National Security Agency director general Paul Nakasone, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director Robert Cardillo. Screenshot courtesy of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

A few years ago, within 24 hours of the publication of a column I’d written about human rights and China, I clicked on a link in an email about the story from a source whose allegiances were not quite as they appeared. Within seconds, my laptop self-extinguished and would not reboot.

When the cocky young Geek Squad geek finally emerged from his lair with the prognosis, he shook his head. “We tried everything and this thing is not coming back,” he said. “Who did you piss off?”

As the world absorbs the implications of China’s economic and political rise over the past two decades, it will be helpful to understand—as Canada has been made to recently—that Beijing’s approach to rewarding and punishing behaviour to secure its desired outcomes is not limited to its Orwellian social engineering system. It’s certainly not limited to Chinese territory. And it is most definitely not limited to what the kids these days call meatspace.

During their testimony before the United States Senate Intelligence Committee last week, America’s senior spies identified China as the major security threat to America. “The Chinese counterintelligence threat is more deep, more diverse, more vexing, more challenging, more comprehensive, and more concerning than any counterintelligence threat I can think of,” FBI director Christopher Wray told the committee. Director of national intelligence Dan Coats said, “While we were sleeping in the last decade and a half, China had a remarkable rise in capabilities that are stunning.”

The reason that China is more of a threat than Russia, ISIS (also known as Daesh, Islamic State, and ISIL), immigrants, or even the disruptive, unstable president who leverages them is that China’s threat long ago ceased to be strictly about China. The power China has accrued over the past 20 years has been accrued with the collaboration of a number of borderless players—geopolitical, political, institutional, and corporate—who saw in the confluence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the ascension of an unaccountable non-democracy the promise of unbridled power they could never otherwise possess.

Much has been written about Bill Clinton’s former administration’s failure to entrench America’s Cold War victory by adequately managing Russia’s post-defeat malaise. Less has been written about how that strategic failure was compounded by the administration’s facilitation of China’s accession to international institutions such as the World Trade Organization not as an inducement to democratization and liberalization but as a precursor to its hostile expansionism.

The result has been the incremental, systematic replacement of America’s aid-driven, diplomacy-backed influence on global standards of human rights and democracy with China’s network of debt-trapped, increasingly illiberal democracies, the impact of which is now brutally evident from Venezuela to Cameroon to Zimbabwe to Sudan to Hungary, where basic human rights norms are being obliterated in the name of stability.

Surely, American intelligence agencies haven’t really been sleeping for the past two decades. Like all Western intelligence institutions, they’ve benefited from a massive post-9/11 increase in budgetary clout and a post-internet revolution in technology-enabled covert operations.

Was that staggering infusion of power somehow sufficiently soporific to prevent them from discerning and stopping: the cyberplundering of intellectual property from key industries; the corruption of democracy through hacking, disinformation, and engineered narratives; the degradation of journalism through fake news, demonization, and the state-sponsored assassination of reporters; the exploitation of social media as a surveillance, data-mining, psychological warfare, and propaganda tool; and, an alarming, covertly enabled geopolitical power tilt toward authoritarian non-democracies?

If that was sleep, it was the most bafflingly self-sabotaging, consequential nap in human history.

Lisa Van Dusen is associate editor of Policy Magazine and was a Washington and New York-based editor at UPI, AP, and ABC. She writes a weekly column for The Hill Times.

The Hill Times

Explore, analyze, understand
Guide to Using Social and Digital Tools in Election Campaigns: Digital and Social Tools that Politicos are Using to get Elected, Raise Funds, and Recruit Volunteers
Guide to Using Social and Digital Tools in Election Campaigns

Get the book
Charting the CBC’s challenging present and uncertain future
Charting the CBC's challenging present and uncertain future: Where it has been and where it is going provides an insider profile of the struggles faced by Canada’s public broadcaster in the 21st century.

Get the book
You Might Be From Canada If…
You Might Be From Canada If . . . is a delightful, illustrated romp through this country as it celebrates its 150th birthday.

Get the book

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning


Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.

Nearly 100 new MPs offer new face of Parliament, including 60 in flipped seats

In many ways the incoming Parliament looks quite similar to its predecessor, with 240 returning MPs, the same number of MPs who are Indigenous or a visible minority, and 10 more women.

Rise of advance voting raising questions about impact on, and of, campaigns: experts

Almost 4.8-million Canadians voted at advance polls this year, according to Elections Canada estimates, a roughly 30.6 per cent increase over 2015, accounting for roughly one-quarter of all ballots cast this election.

Watchdog’s proposed minority Parliament rules an affront to confidence convention, says legal expert

News|By Mike Lapointe
Democracy Watch says Governor General should speak with all party leaders before deciding who can try forming government, but Emmett Macfarlane says the confidence convention is the linchpin of the parliamentary system.

McKenna may be moved to new cabinet role after four years implementing Grits’ climate policies, say politicos

News|By Neil Moss
Catherine McKenna's 'tenure in environment would have prepared her well for any other kind of responsibility the prime minister may assign,' says former environment minister Jean Charest.

‘They went with what they knew’: Politicos react to Election 43

'If anybody should've won a majority, it should've been Trudeau. He didn't, and it's his to wear,' says CBC columnist Neil Macdonald of the Oct. 21 election results.

‘A clear mandate’: Trudeau wins second term, with voters handing Liberals a minority

News|By Beatrice Paez
Though not improbable, his victory was not inevitable. It brings an end to a nail-biting, gruelling 40-day slog that has exposed deepening rifts across the country.

McKenna wins re-election in Ottawa Centre, trumpets voters’ support for climate fight

News|By Neil Moss
'I’m so relieved,' Catherine McKenna said, about continuing with the Liberal climate change plan.

Election 2019 was a ‘campaign of fear,’ say pollsters

'There may well be a message to this to the main parties, that slagging each other will only take you so far,' says Greg Lyle.

Election 2019 campaign one of the most ‘uninspiring, disheartening, and dirtiest’ in 40 years, says Savoie

News|By Abbas Rana
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has never seen an election where mudslinging overwhelmingly dominated the campaign, leaving little or no time for policy discussion.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.