For decades, conventional wisdom in the United States held that it was only a matter of time before China would become more liberal, first economically and then politically. We could not have been more wrong—a miscalculation that stands as the greatest failure of U.S. foreign policy since the 1930s. How did we make such a mistake? Primarily by ignoring the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party. Instead of listening to the CCP’s leaders and reading its key documents, we believed what we wanted to believe: that the Chinese ruling party is communist in name only.
Today, it would be a similarly grave mistake to assume that this ideology matters only within China. In fact, the CCP’s ideological agenda extends far beyond the country’s borders and represents a threat to the idea of democracy itself, including in the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitions for control are not limited to the people of China. Across the globe, the CCP aims to spread propaganda, restrict speech, and exploit personal data to malign ends. The United States, accordingly, cannot simply ignore the CCP’s ideological objectives. Washington must understand that the fight against Chinese aggression first requires recognizing it and defending ourselves against it here at home, before it is too late.