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The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show

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Gordon Chang Sees the End of China’s Communist Party

CLAY: Find our next guest, Gordon Chang, @GordonGChang on Twitter. He is a columnist and author. His books: The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. Gordon, thank you for taking the time to join us. If you were advising the Biden White House — we saw their tepid comment and response yesterday about the protests that are emerging in China surrounding zero-covid — what would you tell the Biden White House is the best possible way to support these protesters as they fight back against Chinese authoritarianism?

CHANG: Well, thanks, Clay, and what I would say is that the President Biden should publicly and privately tell the Chinese that the United States will impose severe consequences on China should the regime use force against protesters. Those words yesterday from Admiral Kirby, the NSC coordinator, and in Biden’s statement were really disheartening, dispiriting, because if the United States doesn’t defend freedom and democracy, then no country in the world will. And it’s not just our effect on China. It’s also the effect on other countries around the world where they see we don’t defend our values.

BUCK: Gordon, it’s Buck. Can you just give everybody some sense of how long and how extreme China’s lockdowns have been? Because the way that the Biden administration has spoken about it, it seems to be like, “Well, that’s not our policy and it’s probably going to be hard for them to make it work.” It seems like there’s some pretty extreme video — even by the standards of what we’d expect in China — that’s been coming out of some of these lockdowns. What has it been like?

CHANG: Well, just to give you an example, on Thursday night, there was a fire in an apartment block in Urumqi and there were reported ten killed. Most people think it’s somewhere between 40 and 50 died. People died, Buck, because some were actually in their apartments and could not get out because the doors were wired shut on the outside. Now, there also have been reports which are true — because we’ve seen the video — of people being welded into their apartments, and that is how extreme the zero-covid policy is, that people are not allowed to leave their apartments for food or for anything else if they’re under quarantine.

CLAY: Gordon, how does this end for China? And what I mean by that is it doesn’t seem like they’re going to get enough natural immunity from covid based on the zero-covid policy. We know that the covid shots, no matter which one you take, does not keep you from getting or spreading covid. So, I don’t see a pathway out of this for Chairman Xi. What is the ultimate way that China handles covid, given that they are effectively on zero-covid island now in even attempting to implement this policy?

CHANG: I think that essentially the Communist Party falls because as you point out — and you’re absolutely correct about that, Clay — there is no way out for China. They are going to maintain zero-covid for a variety of reasons. That has already undermined the economies severely. We’re seeing not only very poor economic growth, if there’s any growth at all, but there’s also been plunging property prices and a fall in currency, and those are indirect results of zero-covid.

China is losing fast its status as the world’s factory floor because zero-covid rules have prevented China from not only manufacturing product, but also getting it to ports and on ships for sailing. So really, this has been, I think, going to be the end of the Communist Party. Maybe not this week, but the Chinese people who were demonstrating over the weekend were saying, “Down with the Communist Party,” and they’re eventually going to win because there’s a lot more of them than there are of party members.

CLAY: Okay. So, you say they’re eventually going to win — and that’s a heck of a prediction and I know you’ve written about it. What’s the time frame of a Communist Party collapse in China look like in your mind?

CHANG: Well, I’ve been wrong on that. So probably I’m the worst person in the world to ask.

CLAY: (laughing)

CHANG: (laughing) But just to give you some context, I wrote a book in 2001 saying that the Communist Party would fall in a decade. In my defense, Clay, I will say I didn’t foresee the 2008 downturn. But that’s a longer story, which we don’t have time to get into. But I think that we’re talking about a two- or three-year time frame, maybe even less than that, because the Chinese people right now are talking about getting rid of Xi Jinping, and that is stunning. I didn’t expect that and it’s… Those protests that sprung up after the fire on Thursday, remember those protests across China — north, south, east, west — they weren’t organized. They weren’t coordinated. There was no leadership. It’s just the people want change.

BUCK: Gordon, when regimes… We’re speaking to Gordon Chang, everybody; The Great U.S.-China Tech Wars, his latest book. Also @GordonGChang on Twitter is his Twitter handle, which we all are big fans of Twitter these days because it’s a place where you actually can share your thoughts. Yay! Gordon, when regimes are under pressure, obviously repression follows in the case of a country that is a totalitarian dictatorship like China. But there’s also always the possibility of some kind of external military operation, some effort to unite the population behind, you know, “the motherland,” so to speak, because of a ongoing conquest or invasion, which brings us to Taiwan. What do you think the Chinese Communist Party’s aims are right now with regard to Taiwan, and are you concerned about the U.S.’s willingness or even capability to do anything about it?

CHANG: I think you’re absolutely right that Xi Jinping will think that he can distract the Chinese people from his obvious policy mistakes at home and try to unite them by creating some military misadventure abroad. Taiwan is an obvious candidate, Philippines and Japan as well. And, you know, it doesn’t really matter. What we’re talking about is the ability of the United States to defend. With regard to Taiwan, Biden, personally, you know, you can tell from his four media interviews where he actually said, “Yes, I will defend Taiwan militarily.”

But we’ve seen his administration walk back his comments, which not only constitutes a constitutional crisis in the U.S. — that’s because the White House press secretary is not charged by the Constitution with making foreign policy — but also, you know, the Chinese see the disarray, and even if the administration is willing to defend Taiwan — and I tend to think they will — I believe that China believes they won’t. And what China believes is really very, very important because they’re the actor in this. So, yes, we need to be very concerned. And the other thing, just, Buck, we have a Pentagon, we have a Biden administration that has no sense of urgency about what’s going on, and so the Chinese can take us by surprise.

CLAY: Gordon, a lot of times people think of an invasion as a sign of strength. But if you look at the population in China, for example, it’s probably already peaked. The one-child policy is going to end up being a disaster. They’re now trying to get people to have two or three children. But over the next couple of generations… By the way, most Chinese are not doing that even though they can. Over the next couple of generations, the Chinese population could get cut in half.

CHANG: Yes.

CLAY: How much of China wanting to attack and invade Taiwan is about weakness as opposed to strength, and how do we psychologically analyze Chinese motivation based on that knowledge?

CHANG: Yeah, I think Xi Jinping is seeing a closing window of opportunity to achieve what he believes are historic goals. Because you have the debt crisis, plunging property prices, crumbling economy, slowing currency, worsening food shortages, deteriorating environment. I can go on. You know, and clearly Xi Jinping has no answers to these because his policies are actually aggravating them. So, yeah, I do believe that there’s a “use it or lose it” mentality, and so that’s something — another thing — which I think argues for a Chinese invasion sooner rather than later. And by the way, there are two Chinese demographers last fall that actually predicted that China’s population would fall in half within 45 years.

BUCK: Gordon, is there any off ramp that the Chinese Communist Party may have for them? You mentioned that they may just continue a zero-covid policy. Can’t they realize at this point, given the protests, that this is…? I mean, are they doing this just because they’re addicted to totalitarian control or do they still believe the science? It just seems somewhat unfathomable, right? It seems totally irrational, even for a totalitarian actor like the Chinese Communist Party to think that locking people in their homes for months on end is going to do anything.

CHANG: Yes. Yeah. They are addicted to totalitarian control, and they’re addicted to something else. You (garbled) remember that the current ruler, Xi Jinping, reveres as Mao, and Mao believed that China’s communists could do anything in the world. You know, they could conquer nature, they could do whatever. And so I think they believe that they can conquer SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes covid-19. So, they believe — and Xi Jinping generally believes that his will can accomplish anything. So that’s another layer on a very dangerous mentality. So, yeah, this guy is… This is not something that people outside China, it’s easy for them to fathom because it is just so abnormal, so ludicrous. But that’s what they believe, and that’s what’s important. That’s what they believe.

CLAY: Gordon, if we’d had this conversation in the 1980s, everybody was terrified of Japan. Japan was buying up all the property in the United States. The economy of Japan was white hot. The idea was Japan’s taking over the world. Over the last 40 years, Japan has mostly been stagnant, and they fell apart in the late eighties. What does the future of China look like? Do you believe that China will become the biggest economy in the world? If they do, can they stay there? What does China look like in 40 years? If communism collapses, what replaces it? You mentioned the demograph… I’m fascinated by it. The demographics of potentially the Chinese population being cut in half. We know Japan is declining; its population, aging rapidly. The same thing’s going to happen in China. How does this end?

CHANG: Well, it certainly doesn’t end with the Chinese dominating the world. You know, I graduated college… I’m going to date myself here. I graduated college during the Arab oil embargo, and I just knew that I was going to be working for some sheikh for the rest of my life. So when the Japanese at the end of the 1980s looked like that they were going to own planet Earth, I said, “I don’t know how this ends, but it’s not going to end that way because I’m not working because I’m Arab,” and the same thing with China. China in 40 years, I think is going to be a weak country, could very well be divided, cut up. Who knows where it’s going to be, but it’s not going to be ruling the world. You know, and it’s not just demography. It is everything else that is… All these crises are hitting China at the same time, and it would be a challenge for any group of leaders, but it’s certainly a challenge for a Maoist who has lost touch with the world as it is.

CLAY: Gordon Chang, this is fantastic stuff. @GordonGChang on Twitter. Go fall in there. Thank you for coming on the show. Read his books. Gordon, we appreciate the time.

CHANG: Thank you so much, Clay. And thank you so much, Buck.

BUCK: Thank you. Thank you, Gordon.

CLAY: Great stuff.


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