NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
Chinese ‘action’ general appointed CMC vice chair
The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, the ultimate seat of power in the country today, has a new vice chairman, one who is raising fears of military action against Taiwan.
The appointment of People’s Liberation Army Gen. He Weidong followed President Xi Jinping’s being named to a third term as the party’s leader. Mr. Xi also chairs the Central Military Commission.
Mr. Xi said at the opening of the 20th national party congress that ended Sunday that China’s bid to take over Taiwan “must be realized and it can without a doubt be realized.” Gen. He’s appointment has added to U.S. concerns that China is planning some type of military action against Taiwan in the next few years.
According to his official biography, Gen. He commanded the PLA’s Western Theater Command Army during the 2017-2018 border dispute with India, when military forces from both armies faced off over Chinese road-building on what Indians said was their side of the border.
Two years later, Chinese and Indian forces engaged in a brief border skirmish that resulted in the deaths of scores of troops from both sides.
Gen. He was promoted to general in December 2019 and made commander of the Eastern Theater Command, one of the PLA’s most advanced and well-armed military units opposite Taiwan. The command has more than 1,200 missiles within range of the island.
“If what is publicly reported about him over the years is true, then he is one of Xi’s ‘action men’ in the PLA,” said retired Navy Capt. Carl O. Schuster, a former intelligence officer with the Indo-Pacific Command.
Reports from Asia say Gen. He left the Eastern Command in January and is believed to have directed the PLA’s largest war games near Taiwan after the visit to Taipei by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that was bitterly opposed by Beijing.
The general joined the Central Military Commission’s joint staff in January. The staff is in charge of PLA operations.
The early August exercises included 11 ballistic missile firings that bracketed Taiwan, and included what U.S. military officials say was a rehearsal for a potential military attack on the island democracy.
Gen. He was appointed CMC vice chairman on Monday.
“I suspect he was marking time there while Xi prepared for the 20th National Congress, but he also may have played a coordinating role in integrating the Strategic Rocket Forces’ involvement in the August exercises, since he was the Eastern Theater Command commander during the 2021 [anti-ship ballistic missile] maritime exercise shots,” Capt. Schuster said.
Another CMC vice chairman, Gen. Zhang Youxia, is keeping his position and is viewed as a close aide to Mr. Xi. Gen. Zhang, 72, is past the normal retirement age for senior party officials.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, was asked Tuesday about China’s increasingly aggressive stance toward Taiwan.
“We’ve expressed our concerns in terms of the coercive behavior, the treading on international rules and norms,” Gen. Ryder said. “And so, we will continue to work with our allies and partners to try to deter potential future aggression and to try to preserve peace and stability in the region.”
Gen. Ryder said the Pentagon’s focus is on avoiding a conflict with China and will seek to “maintain open dialogue” with Beijing.
China cut off or suspended most military talks with the Pentagon following Ms. Pelosi’s Taiwan visit.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said in a meeting with legislators on Monday that the presence of Gen. He and Gen. Zhang on the CMC, along with other military promotions, are clear signs tgat Beijing will be tougher on Taiwan.
“The Communist Party is well prepared,” Mr. Chiu said. “These talents can be put into good use for a long time.”
Biden administration muted on Xi’s third term
The Pentagon, State Department and White House all declined to comment on Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s appointment to an unprecedented third term as Chinese Communist Party general secretary and Central Military Commission chairman.
“I’m not going to talk about a particular government’s decisions and process by which they choose their leaders,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters.
“Nor am I going to speculate on what President Xi may do. As you know, we’ve said many times that China continues to remain the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense and the National Security Strategy recently reaffirmed that. So we’re going to continue to do our part to ensure that the U.S. military is prepared to continue working with allies and partners in the region to be able to deter and preferably ensure stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific going forward,” he said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price offered a similar reaction and insisted that despite China’s increasingly belligerent stance under Mr. Xi, the United States will not change its policy toward Beijing.
“We do note the conclusion of the 20th Party Congress and we would welcome cooperation of the PRC where our interests align, and that includes cooperation on climate change and global health, counter-narcotics [and] non-proliferation as well,” Mr. Price said, using the acronym for People’s Republic of China.
China suspended bilateral climate talks in August and has balked at the administration’s offer of cooperation on the issue by first demanding changes to U.S. policy.
At the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that President Biden and Mr. Xi have spoken five times in recent months. She would not say if the two leaders will meet at the G-20 summit to be held in Indonesia next month.
“We continue our efforts to keep lines of communication open, including at the leader level,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
The comments from the three spokesmen reflect the administration’s policy of not opposing China’s communist system.
China state media have reported that Mr. Biden in one of his meetings with Mr. Xi assured the Chinese leader the United States was not seeking to undermine the communist system in China. Similar assurances were given to Chinese officials by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan at their recent meetings.
Bradley A. Thayer, director of China policy at the Center for Security Policy, says Mr. Biden needs to adopt a clear strategy in response to growing threats from China.
Mr. Thayer stated in a commentary in The Hill that Mr. Xi has declared the United States an enemy of China.
“To start, the Biden administration needs to explain why the U.S. and its allies must achieve victory over the CCP — and how they will do so,” Mr. Thayer said in the newspaper commentary. “Advancing a strategy of victory is the first step toward ensuring that the world remains free of Communist China’s tyranny.”
House investigator seeks FBI documents on China-Biden links
Rep. James Comer, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Wednesday asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to provide documents on a Biden family associate linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Comer said documents obtained by committee Republicans as part of an inquiry “reveal Hunter Biden’s business partner and close personal associate was linked to the Communist Party of China (CCP), her employer before the Biden family.”
The associate, JiaQi “Jackie” Bao, worked with President Biden’s younger son in seeking a deal to buy U.S. liquified natural gas for sale in China, Mr. Comer said.
In addition to having access to Biden family financial data, Ms. Bao “liaised with CCP-affiliated agents on the Bidens’ behalf,” the letter charged.
“After infiltrating the Biden family, Bao urged Hunter to encourage Joe Biden to run for president months before he announced and then supplied the Biden family campaign advice related to China,” the letter said.
A 2018 text message from Ms. Bao to Mr. Biden reprinted in the letter states that “Uncle Joe should run for President in 2020.”
The letter states that Ms. Bao’s relationship with Mr. Biden extended beyond professional links and that such personal relations are a common tactic used by Chinese intelligence.
“Committee Republicans are concerned Hunter Biden may have been compromised by [Chinese] and foreign intelligence services,” Mr. Comer said. “Due to the interconnected nature of the Biden family’s finances and business dealings, this type of access would jeopardize U.S. national security.”
Mr. Comer stated that in light of recent disclosures by FBI Special Agent Timothy Thibault, who asserted the FBI failed to investigate the Hunter Biden matter, committee Republicans are concerned the FBI ignored the Chinese connection to the Bidens.
“The FBI’s lack of interest in Biden family dealings is troubling,” Mr. Comer said. “The national security threat of a [foreign intelligence service] gaining access to a presidential family’s sensitive information is too great to ignore.”
The letter requests all FBI documents related to Ms. Bao and her relations with Mr. Biden; all communications by Mr. Thibault on the investigation of the Bidens; and all documents on foreign intelligence service efforts to co-opt the Biden family, including Hunter Biden.
Mr. Comer also asked for all documents related to efforts by the now-defunct Chinese energy company CEFC to buy U.S. energy assets and infiltrate agents into the Biden family.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter @BillGertz.