Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Communist China's Drive For Global Supremacy: My Q&A With National Security Reporter Bill Gertz

My Q&A with national security reporter Bill Gertz, who writes the Inside the Ring column for the Washington Times, appears in the latest issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the Q&A via the above and below pages or the text below:

An IACSP Q&A with National Security Reporter Bill Gertz

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Interviewed by Paul Davis

Bill Gertz is the National Security Columnist for the Washington Times. For more than 20 years, he has written a weekly Washington Times column called “Inside the Ring,” which covers the U.S. national security bureaucracy.


He is also the author of eight books. His most recent is “Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy.” Vyachaslav Trubnikov, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, once called him a “tool of the CIA” after he wrote an article exposing Russian intelligence operations in the Balkans. In the United States, a senior CIA official once threatened to have a cruise missile fired at his desk at The Washington Times after he wrote a column critical of the CIA’s analysis of China. 


China’s communist government also has criticized him for his news reports exposing China’s weapons and missile sales to rogues states, accusing him of “spreading lies about China.” The state-run Xinhua news agency in 2006 identified him as the No. 1 “anti-China expert” in the world, although Bill Gertz insists, he is very much pro-China – pro-Chinese people and opposed to the communist system. 


Bill Gertz studied English literature at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and journalism at George Washington University, Washington, DC. In March 2014, he received the Reed Irvine Award for Investigative Journalism by Accuracy in Media in March of 2014. In September of 1999, he was awarded the Western Journalism Center award for investigative journalism. The United States Business and Industrial Council awarded him the “Defender of the National Interest Award” in June of 1998, and in 1997 he was recognized by The Washington Times for excellence in achievement.

IACSP: What does the title of your most recent book, “Deceiving the Sky,” mean? 

Gertz: It is an ancient Chinese strategy. Chinese military officials are steeped in ancient strategy and many people are familiar with Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and how to defeat the enemy without firing a shot, but this title is from “The Thirty-Six Strategies,” from around 300 or 200 B.C., what is known as the Warring States Era. It is the first of the 36 strategies and it is called “Deceive the Sky to Cross the Ocean.” The words are based on a legend and the legend was that a military commander was trying to convince the Emperor to go to war against a neighboring province, and so he invited him to a house of a wealthy peasant for dinner. When the Emperor and the general stepped into the house, they felt it move and that they had been tricked into getting on a boat and so the Emperor had to decide to either go back or go to war. He decided to go to war. So, the point is for the Chinese to succeed, they need to deceive even the sky or the Emperor, or God himself, in order to achieve their goals. I felt this was a worthy title for the book because it sums up the way Communist China is approaching the United States, ready to use all means necessary, not just to modernize themselves and achieve their goal of global supremacy, but more importantly, to defeat the United States.

IACSP: Good title. Why did you write the book?

Gertz: Back in 2000 I wrote a book called “The China Threat,” which was a play on what Beijing calls “The China Threat Theory.” It is actually something that their military people and diplomats were tasked with: the measuring opposition to China’s modernization. They dismiss the idea that they are a threat, but recognize people view them as a threat. And I laid out why I think they are a threat. It was an early exposé of the China threat. I felt that now is the time, under the Trump Administration, where we have seen a major shift in policy towards China, to write a follow-on to that book. In the intervening twenty years, I tried to capture everything that had happened, and the China threat has increased dramatically since when I first wrote “The China Threat” back in 2000.

IACSP: Would you describe Chinese government “deception operations?”

Gertz: In order to understand the Chinese system and their use of deception, it is extremely important for people to understand the nature of the Communist system in China. I think that this has been the biggest failing in the West, particularly the United States, in the last forty years. We have failed to really understand that we are dealing with a Marxist-Leninist state that was modeled after the Soviet Union. They saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and they moderated their ideological approach to things, but they have not abandoned Marxist-Leninism. A key feature of Marist-Leninism is the use of strategic deception, disinformation, and influence operations. This goes back to Sun Tzu – the ability to use all of these to achieve their goals. I focused a lot in “Deceiving the Sky” on identifying and understanding the Communist nature. I’ve met American businesspeople who tell me they’ve done business in China for twenty years and they’ve never met a Communist. That tells me there is really a lack of understanding about the system there. I’m trying to educate people, especially young people, about the nature of the Communist system. 

One of the fundamental themes of “Deceiving the Sky” is that we, the United States, are engaged in what I call, “a thirty-year gamble.” The idea was that if we pretend that China was not a Communist state, and if we just trade with them and if we ignore their human rights abuses, if we ignore their arms proliferation to rogue states, like selling ICBMs and launchers to North Korea, nuclear technology to Iran, and so on, that this would have a moderating influence and that through trade and business interaction, China would become a normal non-communist nation.

It was an utter failure. A failure that we are paying dearly for now, as we see how Beijing mishandled and deceived the world about the Coronavirus outbreak.

IACSP: You’ve written in the Washington Times about the “wet markets.” I can’t imagine eating a bat, let alone a live bat, but apparently it is a delicacy there.

Gertz: The issue really is: what is the origin of the coronavirus. The answer is no one knows. The reason no one knows is because of Chinese secrecy and deception. The deception that the world is finally waking up to is that the disease broke out in Wuhan, where China is developing vaccines for coronaviruses and bat viruses. There is a strong indication, and even the scientific experts, who tried to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory early on, are now coming around to the idea that this virus may have been captured by the study that was undertaken by two Chinese labs very close to that wet market – and if they could have escaped from that lab.

IACSP: You write about China stealing intellectual property. How can we curb that?

Gertz: I think the Trump Administration is doing an excellent job. As I mentioned, President Trump has made a major shift in U.S. policy towards China and it is based on what the White House has done through the Peter Navarro office that looks at U.S. manufacturing. They did a report called “China’s Economic Aggression.” In that 2017 report, they disclosed that China was stealing between $250 billion and $600 billion annually in American technology. As a nation that is highly dependent on its technological innovation, no nation can survive losing that kind of information and intellectual property. Trump has launched a major trade initiative, he wants to continue trading with China, but he wants to do it in a way that’s fair. That resulted in the big trade deal in January, but that deal is now in jeopardy because of the pandemic. It has been based mostly on economic and trade issues, but the Justice Department launched something they call “The China Initiative.” This is a very aggressive law enforcement and prosecutorial effort to crack down on Chinese intelligence activities. Almost on a weekly basis, we are seeing Chinese intelligence activities, operatives and their agents being indicted or arrested or otherwise exposed. I think this is having a real impact. 

IACSP: It is curious, but if you listen to President Trump’s speeches, he sounds conciliatory towards China and Russia and their leaders, but his administration is probably been the toughest on China and Russia since the Reagan administration. Do you agree? 

Gertz: Absolutely. In fact, I believe that the Trump administration is pursuing the same strategy that the Reagan Administration pursed. Early on in the Reagan Administration, they recognized that the Soviet Union, our Cold War adversary, was living off of stolen Western technology, so a major effort was launched to prevent the Soviet Union from stealing Western technology. This effort definitely contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trump is doing the same thing with our new Cold War adversary, Communist China, by limiting as much as possible the theft of American technology. His argument is basically, let’s see if this Chinese miracle of economic growth can continue without stolen American and Western technology. 

IACSP: Are the Chinese meddling in American politics with influence operations like the Russians? 

Gertz: Yes. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the president himself, have come out in speeches and said starkly, China wants to see another president. In 2012 the Chinese military took over a disputed island in the South China Sea off the coast of the Philippines. The president of the Philippines invoked the defense treaty with the U.S. and President Obama refused to do it. That was a green light. The Chinese began rebuilding and militarizing islands. Xi Jinping, the current leader, promised Obama he would not militarize those newly created islands, but they have installed advanced anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. They have turned the South China Sea into a flash point. 

IACSP: You wrote about the “Chinese Dream.” Would you explain that? 

Gertz: Yeah, I call it the Chinese nightmare, these drives for global supremacy. Each Chinese leader since Mao has tried to identify themselves with a buzz phrase. For Dung Shao Ping, it was bide our time and develop our capabilities. For Xi Jinping, it is the Chinese Dream. The dream is that China will reassert its, quote, “rightful place in the world.” The Chinese view themselves as the Middle Kingdom and they want to dominate the world. This coincides with their ideology as well as their nationalism. China is on the move. China is targeting the underdeveloped world, going into countries and offering to build railroads and ports with loans to the countries and afterwards the countries discover the loans have exorbitant rates. When the countries can’t pay, the Chinese say, well, this is our railroad and our seaport. 

IACSP: That’s the way Cosa Nostra organized crime operates.

Gertz: Yes, the Chinese leadership today is very much like organized crime families, with power centers both in the military and the Communist Party. There are competing interest and power struggles. Xi Jinping has created quite a bit of instability, both within the military and within the ruling party with his purges under the guise of anti-corruption, but in reality, to consolidate power.

IACSP: The Chinese are Communists, but a lot of leaders have amassed personal fortunes, haven’t they? 

Gertz: Yes. They have utilized the Communist system of total control through party membership of eighty million people. But the higher you get within this hierarchy, the more access you get to wealth. A good example of that is the current Vice President, Chen Chien-Jen, who is in reality, the financial czar. He has over at least two or three billion dollars in overseas accounts, according to the people I’ve talked to for research for the book. 

IACSP: You wrote about a Chinese “intelligence storm.” Would you describe that?

Gertz: This was based on an interview with a retired CIA counterintelligence official who used that term. He said the approach of Chinese intelligence to the United States is on par with the Soviet KGB and GRU threat of the Cold War. In other words, it is a multi-front approach to gathering intelligence, both secrets and unclassified information, bringing that back and using it for government and policy reasons, as well as for commercial and economic reasons.

Their cyber efforts against the U.S. have been massive in terms of data collection. The OPM hack was among the most viable. Twenty-two million records of American officials, including our intelligence and law enforcement personnel.

IACSP: How would you describe Xi Jinping?

Gertz: In my book I have some eye-opening information about him. He has amassed more power than Mao. He is the most feared official in China, which many people have said contributed to China’s causing the global pandemic. One of the reasons local officials in Hubei Provence, where Wuhan is located, were afraid of reporting to the center for fear of being accused of corruption. This is the kind of system operating now. Xi Jinping admires several people, including Hitler, Stalin and Mao. The people he hates are Dung Shao Ping, the reformer, and Ronald Reagan, who got rid of the Soviet Union.

IACSP: Thank you for speaking for us. 

Paul Davis is a regular contributor to the Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security Int’l.

You can also read my Washington Times review of Bill Gertz's Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China's Drive for Global Supremacy via the below link:


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