I have already detailed my concern over the lack of discussion of Communist China as an issue in the Presidential campaign (admittedly tempered by Senator John McCain's strong opposition to the Administration's surrender to North Korea). My concern is growing as it becomes clear just what the next President will face across the Pacific over the next four years - a Chinese Communist Party desperate to preserve its rationale for the continued oppression of the Chinese people, no matter what the consequences.
I'll start with the weaknesses, because they will drive the regime's actions. We are now aware that the economy is no longer the white-hot dynamo that the CCP has always claimed it is, meaning the "bread" in the bread-and-circus routine will be more scarce. While a 9% growth rate certainly sounds terrific, one must keep in mind that population growth in the area under Communist rule is roughly 6-7%. This means that most of the economic growth is due to increased labor, rather than increased capital or higher productivity. Moreover, GDP per capita (the measure by which economic growth translates into higher prosperity for the people) is actually close to 2-3%, which might be entirely explained not by any real economic gains but rather from Communist chicanery with the statistics (or, if one prefers, dubiety).
While economic growth ceased to be the lead justification for the Communist tyranny after the Tiananmen massacre, it certainly helped the regime preserve itself. Now, the Chinese people will see their own incomes stagnate (or worse - Boycott 2008), as corrupt cadres flee for the very democratic world the regime criticizes without end (BBC) and the Party leaders who stay scramble to contain the damage from things such as the melamine fiasco (Epoch Times). These tidings do not bode well for "stability," i.e., the regime's continued status as tyrant-in-thief.
Given these problems, we can expect the regime to act as it has always done - silence its critics at home (Between Heaven and Earth) and rattle its saber abroad. What the next President must understand is that these are the actions of a weakening regime, not a strengthening one. Thus, rather than appeased, the Chinese Communist Party must be confronted when it chooses to misbehave.
There will be plenty of opportunities for the incoming White House occupant to make this plain. The CCP is already trying to silence critics outside China via the Long Arm of Lawlessness. Thankfully the European Union refused to be gagged (BBC, Epoch Times, and Washington Post). However, the more troubling aspects to this are happening right here in the United States, particularly in New York City, where the regime's minions have waged a campaign of intimidation and terror against those who point out its persecutions back home (The Epoch Times).
Will the next President step up and make it clear to Beijing that such criminal actions against the rights of Americans on American soil will no longer be tolerated? This will be an immediate test of his abilities and a signal as to his priorities. The Communists themselves will certainly notice action - or inaction - on this front.
That won't be the only test either. The RAND Corporation has echoed a warning yours truly has sounded for years - that the Chinese Communist Party will occupy North Korea before ever letting its colonial regime fall (Chosun Ilbo, ROK). Considering how much of a headache Kim Jong-il has been to Washington - and how little blame his colonial masters have received for it - it is quite likely that such an intervention would be welcomed by the usual elites in the capitals of the democratic world. The next American President must have the resolve to resist this combination of appeasement and exhaustion to send an unmistakable message that the partial conquest of Korea will never be tolerated or recognized. Any other reaction would embolden the regime for future military operations - like one against a rather large island southwest of Japan that the cadres claim as their own (hint: it starts with a "T").
Of course, the next American President must also face the War against Wahhabism, Ba'athism, and Khomeinism (better known as the War on Terror). Will he be aware that the CCP is the common ally of anti-American terrorists? Will he have the resolve to face this reality and rally the American people to victory in what is really the Second Cold War? This will be the most important question the new President will face.
We have forgotten this as 9/11 seared our memory, but the outgoing Administration's first foreign-policy challenge wasn't al-Qaeda's attack, but the Hainan outrage. President Bush's weakness then sent exactly the wrong signal to the rest of the world, al Qaeda included. His successor cannot make the same mistake. America will never be secure until China is free.