US diplomat George F Kennan’s 8,000-word ‘Long Telegram’ from Moscow in February 1946 was the basis for the US containment strategy toward the former Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War. Now 75 years later, a ‘Longer Telegram’ was released by the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council that aims to give suggestions for the new US administration’s China strategy.
The document says the US should target Chinese president Xi Jinping at the core of its strategy.
“For the United States, its allies, and the US-led liberal international order, this represents a fundamental shift in the strategic environment. Ignoring this profound change courts peril. Xi is no longer just a problem for US primacy. He now presents a serious problem for the whole of the democratic world.”
The document states, “Given the reality that today’s China is a state in which Xi has centralized nearly all decision-making power in his own hands, and used that power to substantially alter China’s political, economic, and foreign-policy trajectory, US strategy must remain laser focused on Xi, his inner circle, and the Chinese political context in which they rule. Changing their decision-making will require understanding, operating within, and changing their political and strategic paradigm. All US policy aimed at altering China’s behaviour should revolve around this fact, or it is likely to prove ineffectual. This strategy must also be long term…”
The document observes, correctly, that the Kennan document of 1946 pre-supposed a deep insight into the working of the Soviet system, thereby identifying its inherent flaws. China is much more careful, and has studied the causes of the destruction of the USSR much more than the USSR’s erstwhile enemies.
“The uncomfortable truth is that China has long had an integrated internal strategy for handling the United States, and so far this strategy has been implemented with reasonable, although not unqualified, success. By contrast, the United States, which once operationalized a unified strategy to deal with the challenge of the Soviet Union, in the form of George Kennan’s containment, so far has none in relation to China. This has been a dereliction of national responsibility.”
The anonymous author of the document says an “operationalised strategy” should comprise 7 components: rebuild the economic, military, technological, and human-capital underpinnings of US long-term national power; agree on a limited set of enforceable policy “red lines” that China should be deterred from crossing under any circumstances; agree on a larger number of “major national security interests” which are neither vital nor existential in nature but which require a range of retaliatory actions to inform future
The document says the areas of strategic competition against China should include “sustaining current US force levels in the Indo-Pacific region; stabilizing relations with Russia and encouraging the same between Russia and Japan; concluding a fully operationalized Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) with India, Japan, and Australia by inducing India to abandon its final political and strategic reservations against such an arrangement, among other suggestions.