by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s team is developing a strategy for China based on the idea of “a fight with a really different civilization” for the first time in American history.
“This is a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology and the United States hasn’t had that before,” Kiron Skinner, the director of policy planning at the State Department, said Monday evening at a security forum in Washington, D.C.
Skinner is leading an effort to develop a concept of U.S.-China relations on the scale of what she called “Letter X” — the unsigned essay by George Kennan, who assessed “the sources of Soviet conduct” in 1947 and outlined the containment strategy that guided American strategists for the rest of the Cold War. China poses a unique challenge, she said, because the regime in Beijing isn’t a child of Western philosophy and history.
“The Soviet Union and that competition, in a way it was a fight within the Western family,” Skinner said, noting Karl Marx’s indebtedness to Western political ideas. “It’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”
Skinner credited retired Army Gen. H.R. McMaster, who served as White House national security adviser from March 2017 to March 2018, with recognizing the need for a National Security Strategy organized around the return of great power competition with Russia and China. But those two rivals are not equivalent, she said, identifying Russia as a mere “global survivor” that pales in comparison to China.