◎ The media’s irresponsible decision to play “kingmaker” boosts the CCP’s efforts to undermine America’s democratic system and its standing in the free world.
By Don Tse and Larry Ong
On Nov. 7, the Associated Press and other major news outlets called the 2020 U.S. presidential election for former Vice President Joe Biden after he appeared to cross the 270 electoral vote threshold. That evening, Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris delivered acceptance speeches, claiming victory in the heated race.
However, serious legal and constitutional challenges in key swing states, as well as pending recounts, cast doubt upon the finality of the electoral results claimed by the Biden-Harris team and most news media in the U.S. and around the globe. Events continue to unfold at the time of publication.
But these developments have been ignored, dismissed, or downplayed by the media. More importantly, none of the states have certified the election result for Biden. In America, it is the states, not the media, which are constitutionally mandated to call a presidential election. Regardless, only one narrative mattered—President Donald Trump was vanquished, Joe Biden was President-elect, and absolutely nothing would change that outcome.
Premature declarations of victory for Biden by legacy media in America could have serious domestic consequences. The media’s irresponsible decision to play “kingmaker” also stands to boost the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to undermine America’s democratic system and its standing in the free world.
A new cold war
The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are in the midst of a new cold war, one that the latter launched unilaterally decades ago and which the former began to address in earnest over the past four years.
From slapping sanctions on Chinese exports to curbing Communist China’s push for global hegemony through dominating advanced technology, the Trump administration has done much to address the CCP threat over the past four years. The trade and tech war grabbed media headlines for the most part because they visibly affect economies and markets. However, much less noticed but not less crucial is the Trump administration’s effort to counter the CCP in the ideological realm.
There is strong bipartisan consensus on the seriousness of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party, especially on ideology. A report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence under the chairmanship of Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noted that “China has reasserted its ideological commitment to Marxist-Leninism and sought to further cement the Chinese Communist Party within the Chinese state apparatus” under General Secretary Xi Jinping. The report warned about the “specter of the further globalization of Beijing’s ideology, potentially degrading longstanding international norms concerning the rights of the individual, and the very idea of liberal and free societies.” The House Republicans wrote in their report on China that “the CCP is completely committed to a hostile communist ideology that seeks to eliminate any perceived threats to its security—chief among them the values that underpin American society and the U.S.-built international system.”
Given the ideological component at play, it is critical that Washington’s pushback against and containment of the Party’s threat include, on the one hand, robust efforts to frame the confrontation in the context of bringing to light the malign tenets of the CCP and its totalitarian operations, while on the other hand, have America serve as a model for liberty, democracy, and constitutional government.
However, the stance of major U.S. media outlets in the past four years, and most egregiously in “calling” the 2020 presidential election before the results are finalized and certified, has done much to undermine the latter aspect of America’s ideological answer to such CCP regime narratives as “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and “community of shared future for mankind.”
American media outlets could have exercised prudence and waited for the election process to run its course like Bush v. Gore in 2000. However, most preferred to cast a Biden presidency as a fait accompli instead of respecting U.S. democratic norms and constitutional procedure. In their rush to “anoint” Biden and “dethrone” Trump, legacy media has constructed a parallel “reality” that is guaranteed to leave American society badly fractured no matter the final result of the election. Worse, the legacy media are sowing and deepening divides in America at a time when the U.S. and the CCP are locked in fierce ideological competition with dire stakes for the free world.
Communist China inherited and remains committed to the Marxist-Leninist worldview that seeks world domination as the ultimate goal in its revolutionary program. Per the CCP’s zero-sum view of international relations, all other political systems are inferior to its own totalitarian model, and are “inevitably” to be swept away by the “wheel of history.” Acting on this belief, as well as out of a perennial need to shore up its own regime, the CCP undermines faith in other political systems by declaring them “chaotic,” “divided,” and “weak” in comparison to the “strength,” “stability,” and “unity” of its authoritarian regime. The U.S. is a favorite target of the CCP’s ideological warfare—the spread of gnawing doubts about the health of democracy in the free world’s “beacon of hope” boosts Beijing’s ability to intimidate U.S. allies and partner nations, win them over to its “community of shared future for mankind,” and advance its agenda for global hegemony.
Regardless of the eventual outcome of the presidential election, the CCP has—through the sheer recklessness of the American media—stolen a march in its ideological battle against the United States.
Party-controlled mouthpieces were quick to latch onto the American media narrative about the 2020 U.S. presidential election result to spread propaganda and disinformation about a fractured U.S. in chaos and decline. Hu Xijin, Global Times editor-in-chief, laid out most of the CCP’s talking points in a Nov. 8 commentary: “Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race has been essentially acknowledged in the US society and the international community. The only thing missing is incumbent President Donald Trump conceding defeat and extending his congratulations to Biden for his win. If Trump plays delaying tactics or leaves the White House having failed to accept the election result, the split in the U.S. society will deepen or even be substantially solidified. The ability of the US to come together after the election will be further weakened.”
Should President Trump beat the odds and win re-election, the CCP will play up the “dysfunctional” state of U.S. democracy and democratic elections in general, as well as the “unreliability” of the American media. Beijing’s propagandists and diplomats may gain more traction in suggesting that what the American media has to say about China in the future is “untrustworthy” because it had already misled the American public and the world about the outcome of an important presidential election. With serious doubt being cast on U.S. democracy and media institutions, U.S. efforts to effectively counter the CCP on the ideological front are bound to meet with setbacks.
The American media are not out of the woods even if it turns out that they were correct to call a Biden victory. The CCP will pay heed to the media’s eagerness to overlook the U.S. election process to advance a narrative, and will look to exploit this vulnerability down the road to advance its agenda. Beijing will also view Team Biden’s rush to accept the media’s fait accompli as a sign that a Biden administration may not respect legal and constitutional processes as it works to secure its interests, and take advantage of that as well.
America must know herself, and know the CCP
In July 2019, we wrote that the current Sino-U.S. conflict is “not just a trade war or a tech war, but a critical battle of ideology, value systems, and morality.” We believe that the side that sticks to its ideology, values, and principles will likely emerge the victor of this great power contest. In this regard, the 2020 U.S. presidential election has brought America and the world to a watershed moment.
The CCP is keenly aware that it is engaging in a “you die, I live” struggle with the United States. An America that firmly believes in and upholds her values, laws, and founding principles represents an existential threat to the CCP, which enshrines and pursues almost the exact opposite of what the United States stands for. But the CCP will lose its fear and respect for America when she fails to live up to her standards or respect her own laws and constitution.
Ironically, the CCP and other authoritarian regimes have shown greater “deference” to the U.S. system than most democratic countries regarding the results of the election. After American media declared Joe Biden the winner, the leaders of Canada, Germany, France, India, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and other nations sent congratulations, but not Russia, North Korea, or the PRC. Xi Jinping is silent on the subject, while a PRC foreign ministry spokesman said that the regime understands “the presidential election result will be determined following the U.S. laws and procedures.” American media should reflect on why adversaries of the United States are not yet celebrating.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,” wrote Sun Tzu in his famous treatise on military strategy. President Trump and his administration have certainly made inroads in helping Americans rediscover themselves and “know” the CCP.
In various speeches, the Trump administration lays out clearly what the CCP is—a brutal Marxist-Leninist organization focused on struggle and world domination—while emphasizing what it does not represent or equate to: the Chinese nation and people. By focusing on the underlying nature of the CCP, the Trump administration is helping Americans pierce through Party propaganda and making them less susceptible to its United Front and other influence operations. The administration’s candor also threatens the CCP’s legitimacy by forcing it to defend its bankrupt ideology that is responsible for the death and persecution of hundreds of millions. As Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger said in October, “What evil fears most is the publicly spoken truth.”
More importantly, President Trump is helping America build immunity to CCP subversion by reacquainting the country with its founding principles, values, and faith in God. Trump is promoting a national education syllabus based on the core principles of America’s founding, recognized that religious freedom is a “moral and national security imperative” and a foreign policy priority, and established a Commission on Unalienable Rights that looks to America’s founding documents to advise the government on human rights. Few U.S. presidents in recent decades have done more or better than Trump in actively preserving and promoting traditional American values and principles. By helping America know herself again, the Trump administration is not just restoring pride and patriotism in Americans, but inoculating the population against the Marxist worldview of atheism and struggle as well as the PRC’s “virulent strain of communism.”
What’s at stake for America and the world
Just like in 2016, the legacy media in America have created and locked themselves in a reality that has not yet come to pass. A final Biden victory may vindicate legacy media’s early call, but will be bittersweet for America—hyperpartisanship and elite interests, not fairness and nonpartisanship, will rule the day. Legacy media are in danger of becoming the twin of state and Party media in the PRC—a mere mouthpiece of those in power, not a genuine fourth estate. A Trump victory, however, may deal a serious blow to the credibility of legacy media, while boosting the handful of media outlets who stuck to the facts in reporting the election results. Either way, the legacy media in the country are due a reckoning as Americans of all political stripes who embrace American values take stock of the damage those outlets have dealt to the U.S. system.
Americans need to stay true to traditional U.S. values and principles regardless of the election outcome. Half of America will almost certainly be disappointed with the certified election result when it is announced, but graceful concessions, not violence and protests, are in order. Concession, however, does not mean surrender to the other side. Generations of Americans have learned to live peacefully with each other despite great differences in opinion and political views, and so will this generation as long as they hold fast to America’s founding virtues. Meanwhile, it is incumbent on the winning half to show tolerance and compassion, not perpetuate demonization and retribution. Americans must be reassured that they still have their freedom of speech, will not face arbitrary censorship on social media platforms, and can still trust the U.S. election process and political system. America cannot increasingly transform into a doppelganger of the PRC, free and democratic in name only. Should such a sad day come to pass, however, patriotic Americans will find remedy in the Declaration of Independence.
The CCP could not be more pleased than if Americans were to tear each other apart over the outcome of an election, as communist subversion presents most severely in a fractured society. Americans of all political leanings must recognize the existential external threat to their way of life, set aside their differences, and unite to face the challenge.
Joe Biden may have called Xi Jinping a “thug” and promised to get tough on China, but actions speak louder than words. Americans would do well to be concerned about the path of U.S.-China relations under a Biden administration, given the rise of the PRC under the Obama-Biden administration, as well as Biden’s lack of candor on his family’s business dealings with the PRC. But while a Biden victory does not bode well for America’s ideological confrontation with the CCP, a true return to the era of “engagement” is implausible in the short term. No matter the ultimate outcome of the election, U.S. policymakers and politicians must continue to take into account realities of the “new cold war” with Beijing, particularly in the ideological arena. Stepping up condemnation of the CCP’s worst human rights abuses—such as officially designating the Party’s actions in Xinjiang as “genocide,” and punishing Beijing for its forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience—would prove a strong counter to the PRC’s attempts to normalize itself as a “responsible global stakeholder.”
Those who have written off a Trump victory might stop to consider that there is little to indicate that ongoing litigation in contested states will not be in President Trump’s favor. History has demonstrated time and again that truth always emerges and prevails, and justice will be upheld in the fullness of time. We have faith that the American election process and originalist judges in the courts will deliver a just decision.
There is no question as to whether Donald Trump will continue to stand up to the CCP threat and communism in his second term. A statement published on the White House website on Nov. 2 describes Trump as “one of the few prominent Americans to recognize the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party and its threat to America’s economic and political way of life,” and notes that America is “no longer turning a blind eye to the People’s Republic of China’s conduct nor are we hiding our criticism of its Communist Party behind closed doors.”
On Nov. 7, the White House issued a presidential message to mark the National Day for the Victims of Communism which called for “stopping the spread of this oppressive ideology” of communism. “As proud Americans who cherish the blessings of freedom and democracy, we promise to support the more than one billion people currently captive within communist regimes and denied their unalienable rights to life and liberty,” the message continued, with phrasing that subtly hints at Communist China and its 1.4 billion citizens.
Despite the real contrast between the two U.S. presidential candidates in how they are likely to address the “China challenge,” the outcome of the Sino-U.S. cold war hinges upon multiple critical factors, among which the result of the 2020 election is just one dimension. As long as Americans and America stay true to the nation’s law and traditions, the U.S. will remain a guiding light for the free world, and the CCP’s tyranny will be consigned to history.