Why the U.S. and U.K. Must Stand Up to China

Signs at the Huawei offices in Reading, England. (Toby Melville/Reuters)
We need an Atlantic Charter 2.0.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he Chinese Communist Party’s malevolent actions are forcing governments around the world to reassess their relationships with China. This is an opportunity to strengthen the alliances among the United States, the United Kingdom, and other free countries.

China’s leaders proved they can’t be trusted when they suppressed news of the virus outbreak in Wuhan and stonewalled inquiries into the virus’s origins. Now they are breaking promises to the people of Hong Kong, preparing repressive security laws against the will of the island’s residents, in clear violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which Beijing promised to respect Hong Kong’s free system of government. Conditions for the Uighur minority in Xinjiang are as dire as ever, and territorial expansion in the South China Sea and in disputed areas of the Sino-Indian border continues apace. Meanwhile Xi Jinping’s dictatorship makes no effort to conceal its plans for compulsory reunification between mainland China and Taiwan, using violence if necessary.

Such abuses have contributed to a debate in the U.K. about whether to allow equipment from the Chinese company Huawei into its 5G network. Huawei is one of the Communist Party’s technology champions. After clawing its way to the top of the global market through industrial espionage, economic blackmail, and state subsidies, Huawei now gives China’s spies a portal into the countries that have allowed it into their networks.

Banning Huawei would secure Britain’s 5G network from an obvious threat of foreign espionage. More important, this decisive action would allow stronger cooperation between our countries in our efforts to resist China. We must come to terms with the fact that China is promoting a competing ideology and forcing nations to choose sides between its authoritarian system of control and our system, based on national sovereignty, individual rights, and rule of law. The Communist Party uses its commercial giants, including Huawei, and initiatives such as One Belt, One Road to ensnare smaller countries in its web of influence.

We must also admit that China’s rise has coincided and accelerated with the West’s loss of purpose. Decades of failed “engagement” and trade with China did not transform the country into a responsible stakeholder — to the contrary, it turned China into an industrial behemoth, giving the Communist Party the resources to tighten its grip at home and interfere with sovereign nations abroad. Meanwhile, the post-war institutions that served us well during the Cold War are now outdated forums that are focused on discussion rather than action.

It’s time for the United States and Britain to once again step forward and coordinate allied objectives for a long competition against China. We need an Atlantic Charter 2.0, with the United States and Britain once again defining allied ambitions for the post-pandemic world. Prime Minister Johnson and President Trump would find such an initiative a worthy topic during their conversation on the margins of this month’s G-7 summit.

The core of this effort must be the Five Eyes countries, but it must be expanded to welcome allies and partners, including India, Japan, South Korea, the nations of Europe, the Commonwealth, and elsewhere. All are threatened by China’s aggressive rise, so all must be united against it.

This alliance must have among its objectives the protection of an open, free Indo-Pacific region. This will require sustained commitment of troops and technology, operating together when possible. This alliance also must have a strong commercial dimension to counter China’s mercantilist tactics, anchored by a much-needed trade agreement between the U.S. and the U.K.

Allied nations could collaborate on Open Radio Access Network technology (O-RAN) that would give small- and medium-sized technology companies the market access to out-innovate monopolistic firms such as Huawei. This initiative alone would dramatically increase the number of companies capable of developing and deploying 5G equipment, undercutting Huawei’s closed system and artificial price advantage.

We’re confident our nations will prevail against this new Communist competitor, because they have done so in the past. In 1946, Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned a complacent America of the “Iron Curtain” that our wartime ally, the Soviet Union, was lowering over Europe.

The U.S. has worked to warn the UK about Huawei, and by extension about the designs of the Chinese Communist Party. We may be in the first stages of a protracted struggle caused by the CCP. Now we have the chance to go into this struggle united and strong.

The Rt. Hon. Tobias Ellwood MP is the chairman of Parliament’s Defense Committee and leads its subcommittee inquiry into the future of 5G in the United Kingdom. Tom Cotton is a United States senator for Arkansas. He will testify before Ellwood’s subcommittee today.

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