The human toll of the Chinese Communist regime is almost beyond
imagination. Some apologists have tried to ignore or minimize the
slaughter but, back in 1971 in a study done for Congress, Professor
Richard Walker, in “The Human Cost of Communism in China,” estimated
that Beijing was responsible for the deaths of between 34.3 million and
63.8 million people. A more recent estimate just last year by European
historian Jean-Louis Margolin is even larger: between 44.5 million and
72 million people — dead through famine, executions and forced labor.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Chinese rulers in
the Imperial City have rejected the central economic doctrines of Marx,
Lenin and even Mao. But they have preserved almost intact Communism’s
brutal totalitarian structure, as well as Mao’s celebrated watchword:
“Power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

The central question in dealing with China is whether the Beijing
regime, direct heir of the people who sacrificed so many millions to the
false god of Communism, could be reformed by exposure to the civilizing
influence of the West. Bill Clinton, whose sense of realism in foreign
affairs has been consistently weak, believed that it could. He seemed
to firmly believe that the government in Beijing was just another
foreign country, no better and no worse than any other. The problem is
that China’s Communist rulers have a long-term strategy. They quite
rightly regard the United States as their principal opponent and the
primary obstacle to achievement of their goal of world status and their
domination of the entire Pacific area.

Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 as a critic of George Bush’s
friendly policies toward China, having lambasted the elder Bush for
coddling dictators from Baghdad to Beijing. But the new president soon
became a key emollient of China’s progress to world superpower status.
He criticized China’s human rights record — but only because it won him
political points. He never made any serious effort to alter Beijing’s
behavior. The central theme of Clinton’s policy, in fact, was that
China was a “normal,” non-threatening power — the same theme advanced
by China’s rulers from Chou Enlai to the country’s current president
Jiang Zemin.

Business groups have also played a key role in playing down the
possibility of a threat from China. Their reasoning is that free trade
will not only help China evolve peacefully, but will undermine the
Communist system. However, things have not gone that way at all. The
evidence of trade with Beijing over recent decades has shown that China
is not only less free but is more threatening than it was before the
U.S. established formal state-to-state relations in 1979. A prosperous
Chinese middle class is emerging — but there is little sign that it
will lead the country toward democratic reform.

Meanwhile, as Bill Gertz incisively sets forth in the new book, “The
China Threat,” the Chinese danger is real and growing, including the
steady infiltration of Chinese nationals into the U.S. defense
establishment. And, as Gertz has already made clear in his New York
Times bestseller “Betrayal,” the solution is not trade — as the
business class seems to think — but democracy. The Chinese leaders
have made abundantly clear that their current modernization program
decisively omits what we would consider elementary democratic reform.
And if things go along as they are going, we are headed for trouble.

The solution? We must study in detail the Republic of China,
understand its strategy, and form alliances with democratic states that
share our values. And we must build up and maintain our military power
— it might be an economic strain, but we must keep the faith. If we
play our cards right, only then will the present Republic of China one
day follow the Soviet Union into the dust bin of history.

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