It is always valuable to "turn the map around” and look at the strategic situation from the enemy’s perspective. Considering the strategic situation from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), this year is one of decision. It will have tremendous implications for the U.S., Taiwan, and the world. In 2024, the CCP faces two major challenges that will determine its survival.
First, as the CCP is Communist, it is an illegitimate government of China. Because of this, the CCP always faces a fundamental legitimacy crisis. But that crisis is made more acute by the major economic downturn it now confronts. The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) economic crisis is dramatic and will be long-lasting. Its major political effect is to maximize the legitimation crisis faced by Communist dictator Xi Jinping. In turn, this places pressure his decision-making.
The second element is the U.S. presidential election. This is the major consideration of 2024 for the PRC’s foreign policy. The CCP wants President Biden, or Gavin Newsom or Michelle Obama if Biden withdraws, to win. Most importantly, at all costs, the CCP does not want Trump to win.
The cratering poll numbers and the sustained unpopularity of the Biden administration’s policies, as well as his declining health and mental capacity, makes it questionable that he will stand for reelection or announce his retirement this summer. A Biden, Newsom or Obama nominee will be welcomed by Xi. If Biden steps aside, either Newsom or Obama would continue—in large measure—Biden’s policies and keep the disastrous policy of engagement with the PRC. From the PRC’s perspective, this is precisely what it wants. This will ensure the U.S. never works to defeat the PRC. Instead, U.S. investment, trade, and knowledge and technology transfer continue to flow to the PRC, and Xi and the CCP will stay in power with the best chance of weathering the PRC’s dramatic economic downturn.
In contrast, a Trump victory is Xi’s nightmare as a second Trump administration well understands the evil nature of the CCP and why it is an existential threat to the U.S. Drawing a page from Ronald Reagan’s strategy to defeat the Soviet Union, Trump will pressure the CCP directly to evict the Communist regime from power. Trump will wage all out economic and political warfare against the CCP to consign them to the "ash heap of history” where the CCP will join the Soviet Communist Party.
Accordingly, "turning the map around” and considering the 2024 election from Xi’s viewpoint, he cannot allow a Trump victory. The survival of the CCP regime depends upon it. Those are the stakes for the CCP.
The PRC’s interference in the U.S. 2024 presidential election will be massive, multifaceted, and sustained. They include political warfare strategies employed on TikTok, other apps, and social and legacy media to hurt the Trump campaign and favor Biden, Newsom, or Obama. AI and deepfakes will be employed to deceive and suppress Trump voters while promoting the Democrat candidate. Cyber offers another major avenue to hurt Trump. Other tools at Xi’s disposal might include flooding states with fake ballots, aiding ballot harvesting, and other tricks known to those who practice the dark art of election interference. No doubt, the PRC will do its utmost to sow confusion before, during, and after election day. The cadre of likely People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Ministry of State Security (MSS), and other PRC agents, that have infiltrated the U.S. southern border are certain to play a nefarious role. These men will be able to add real muscle to election interference, to say nothing, of course, of the countless other ways that this Fifth Column of PRC agents threatens U.S. national security, from political assassinations to sabotage.
The election in Taiwan may provide some clues as to how the PRC is planning to influence the U.S. election. The Taiwanese elections were held on January 13th. At the presidential level, the CCP did not get what they wanted. Taiwan is in a better position to resist CCP aggression now, and that also will impact the CCP’s decision calculus concerning when to conquer Taiwan. Much depends upon the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, and the ability of the U.S. in conjunction with allies like Japan to place a strong deterrent in place. But the central consideration is that Taiwan’s election allowed the CCP to hone its skills and learn from its mistakes so that its interference in the U.S. election will be more effective.
A Trump victory is an existential threat to the CCP in a period of great peril for it due to its economic crisis and years of tyrannical rule. Their reign of terror might be ended if the Chinese diaspora, the U.S., and people of goodwill around the world choose to put their shoulders to the task. Working with such a coalition, Trump could do this. So, the 2024 U.S. election is critical for Xi and the CCP.
At the same time, 2024 provides Xi with a window of opportunity he will not have again. Americans should expect that Xi will be especially active this year to achieve his global objectives in the face of a weak U.S. president. For the U.S., there is great danger ahead. A threat assessment for the United States in 2024 requires the recognition that the PRC is well situated to act against U.S. national security within and without of the U.S. Xi has ascertained that the 2024 election is too important to be left in the hands of the American electorate. "Vote early and vote often” was (and is) the motto of Chicago elections, and Americans should expect that Xi will also vote early and often before, during, and probably even after November 5th 2024. "Turning the map around” allows Americans to realize that there is no way Xi can allow Trump to return to office.
Bradley A. Thayer is a Contributing Columnist for Warroom and is @bradleythayer on Gettr and Truth, and @bradthayer at X. He is the coauthor with James Fanell of Embracing Communist China: America’s Greatest Strategic Failure.