Podcast: Dean Cheng on the “Current Issues in the Challenge of China”

One of the most popular speakers at LENS’ annual national security law conference in recent years has been Mr. Dean Cheng, and this year’s conference – the 26th – was no different.  Dean is a Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and he always has insights you rarely hear elsewhere.  I’m pleased to tell you the video is now available for your viewing/listening here.

My super-talented research assistant, Robert DeNault, has written a brief overview of just a few of the observations you can expect to hear.

Cheng offers insights into U.S.–China Relations

Dean Cheng, a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation who specializes in Chinese political and security affairs, spent 50 minutes speaking with Professor Shane Stansbury about a variety of topics in a discussion titled “Current Issues in the Challenge of China.”

Cheng began by focusing on the realm of intelligence and information gathering, a new subject for him to cover at a LENS Conference. He said intelligence comes down to two practices: collecting information and analyzing information. “It doesn’t matter whether you are the CIA, the KGB, BND of Germany,” Cheng said. “These are things that every intelligence organization does.” But Cheng told students that Chinese intelligence operations could be distinguished from those of other nations for their focus on economics, politics, and decision-makers, as opposed to concern with military and security matters.

“Something to keep in mind about the Chinese perspective on the world is that we have transitioned from the industrial age to the information age,” Cheng said. “What this means is that the very currency of national-international power has evolved.” Cheng pointed out that this made intelligence gathering more important to China than ever before.

Mr. Cheng

Cheng also told students that comparisons between Xi Jinping and previous powerful leaders of China might be overstated. “While Xi Jinping is arguably the strongest leader China has had since Deng Xiaoping, it is not clear that he is the sole dictator in the way, say, Mao was. It is more useful to recognize that it is the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) that is in charge, with Xi Jinping very much foremost, and others trailing behind. Not quite just by himself.”

Asked by one student exactly what China wanted (global domination, regional superiority, or different goals entirely), Cheng replied that China and the U.S. aren’t all that different—except in age. He said for its 200+ years of existence, the U.S. has dominated the Western hemisphere; comparably, throughout China’s existence, it dominated Asia. “Their status quo is one where China dominates its environment and . . .states that are certainly not going to balance against China.”

Cheng pointed out the last 100 years were the aberration in 5,000 years of Chinese history. Only recently have some of its neighbors moved closer to countries like the U.S., Brazil, or Russia. Still, Dean suggested China was not aimed at overthrowing foreign governments or spreading ideology, and that he believes the biggest problem in U.S.-China relations is that the CCP perceives the U.S. as an existential threat to its own existence.

You can hear all that and more here.

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