Trump national security adviser compares Xi Jinping to Josef Stalin
In a speech, Robert O'Brien cast the threat China poses to the United States in dire, sweeping terms.
PHOENIX, Arizona — Robert O’Brien, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, equated Chinese President Xi Jingping to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on Wednesday in an aggressive speech that lambasted China for what he described as a malevolent role in world affairs.
“The Chinese Communist Party is Marxist-Leninist,” he said. “The party General Secretary Xi Jinping sees himself as Josef Stalin’s successor.”
O’Brien faulted both political parties for underestimating the threat from China for decades and not seeing that the Chinese government is aiming to “remake the world” in its image. American policymakers were wrong, he said, to assume that as China developed economically, it would eventually democratize and pursue liberalization. Instead, he argued that the opposite has occurred: China has only become more wedded to its communist ideology.
“We could not have been more wrong — and this miscalculation was the greatest failure of American foreign policy since the 1930s,” he said.
Against the backdrop of a new book by his predecessor John Bolton alleging that Trump said he didn’t care about the Tiananmen Square crackdown and didn’t want a White House statement commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1989 massacre, O’Brien said in his speech: “We downplayed China’s gross human rights abuses, including Tiananmen Square.”
O’Brien’s sweeping indictment of the Chinese government is the latest example of the president’s aides going well beyond their boss in casting China as a comprehensive danger to the United States.
The national security adviser’s remarks are the first in a series of speeches senior Trump administration officials are making about China during the next few weeks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr, and FBI Director Chris Wray will also address the topic.
His speech, delivered in the swing state of Arizona, where Trump trails Joe Biden in the polls, also comes as Republicans seek to portray the former vice president as soft on China. That effort has been undercut by the accusation in Bolton’s book that Trump explicitly asked Xi for help in winning reelection, a charge the president’s team has denied.
O’Brien’s sweeping indictment of the Chinese government is the latest example of the president’s aides going well beyond their boss in casting China as a comprehensive danger to the United States. Trump has tended to describe the threat of China in narrower economic terms as he seeks to remedy what he says are Beijing’s unfair trade practices.
Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who covered China, and the NSC’s Asia team helped write the speech, which has been in the works for weeks, according to an administration official. The Chinese embassy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on O’Brien’s remarks.
While Trump has often praised Xi as a great leader, O’Brien condemned his rule as authoritarian and dangerous. During the first three months of this year, the Chinese government has charged almost 500 Chinese citizens for speaking out about the coronavirus, which in the speech O’Brien called the “Wuhan virus” several times.
Beijing’s malign influence extends deep into American politics and society, O’Brien warned. People in more than a dozen American cities hear “subtle pro-Beijing propaganda” on FM radio stations, he said, recounting the story of how a U.S. soldier and her family in Maryland needed a security detail to protect them from death threats after Chinese disinformation convinced some Americans the soldier had originally brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.
While Bolton’s book, where O’Brien isn’t even mentioned, said that Trump told Xi to proceed with building concentration camps for Uighurs, O’Brien condemned the Chinese government for doing exactly that.
“It locks up millions of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities in reeducation camps where they are subjected to political indoctrination and forced labor, while their children are raised in Party-run orphanages,” he said. “This process annihilates family, religion, culture, language and heritage.”
O’Brien tried to disabuse Americans of the notion that they are outside Beijing’s reach, saying that the Chinese Communist Party seeks to “control thought beyond the borders of China” and target and blackmail people to serve the party’s interests.
“This is ‘micro targeting’ beyond an advertiser’s wildest dreams,” he said. “China, unlike advertisers, will not be stopped by government regulations. The Chinese Communist Party simply wants to know everything about you — just like it knows almost everything about China’s citizens.”
As proof of that, he recounted that the Chinese hacked Anthem insurance to get information on 80 million Americans, hacked the Office of Personnel Management to get data on the 20 million American government employees, hacked credit rating agency Equifax and hacked Marriott hotels to get information on millions of guests. A Chinese company in 2016 even bought gay dating app Grindr to get its data before the U.S. government forced the company to divest the app on national security grounds.
O’Brien praised Trump and the administration for taking “decisive action” to counter Beijing by barring Chinese companies closely linked to the government’s national security apparatus, such as telecom giant Huawei, from accessing Americans’ personal data. He also hailed the administration’s moves to enact export and travel restrictions on Chinese government entities, companies and certain officials that are helping repress Uighurs and other minorities.
“The United States has a long history of friendship with the Chinese nation. But the Chinese Communist Party does not equal China or her people” — Robert O’Brien, U.S. National Security Adviser
The State Department has recently cracked down on Chinese journalists in the United States, to which Beijing has responded by ejecting journalists working for American news outlets. O’Brien hinted that more such steps countering China would be coming soon, though he did not specify what or when.
With China moving to sharply curtail Hong Kong’s political autonomy, the Trump administration is in the process of deciding how to adequately respond and how to avoid hurting regular Hong Kong people, who have protested in huge numbers against growing encroachment on their freedom of speech and assembly.
O’Brien emphasized that his criticism of the Chinese government doesn’t extend to regular Chinese.
“We have deep respect and admiration for the Chinese people,” he said. “The United States has a long history of friendship with the Chinese nation. But the Chinese Communist Party does not equal China or her people.”