Opening Remarks at the 15th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference

By Dr. Jianli Yang

Washington, D.C.

Dear Friends from around the world,
Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening!
I cordially welcome all of you to participate in the 15th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference.
China has been one of the campaign issues in the 2020 US election, but we have found a remarkable degree of consensus among the candidates. It was a bipartisan fantasy to believe that, as the PRC integrated into the global economy, the CCP would naturally loosen its grip on power. Both parties rightly recognize this as a problem, and there has been little partisan disagreement over, for example, targeted sanctions relating to CCP abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet. Nor have prominent Democrats criticized the current administration’s aggressive responses to the threats to national security posed by the success of PRC-based technology companies beholden to the CCP.
By now, the need for principled solidarity should be obvious. Regardless of the election’s outcome, we should urge everyone who cares about democratic values to deepen that sense of solidarity in the months and years to come.
Standing alone, even the United States has difficulty preventing the PRC from eroding democratic values. Dependence on the PRC, combined with financial incentives, bends everything – from domestic policymaking, to the behavior of private institutions like Disney or the NBA, to the tenor of discussions occurring in American universities – away from democratic principles.
In response to economically coercive statecraft the CCP is practicing, a new kind of alliance, like NATO, marrying economics with democratic principles, is needed. It is the best response to the CCP’s own pursuit of a decades-long strategy of maintaining a united front with its allies and dividing-and-conquering its opponents.
What should members of a united, democratic front commit to doing? At a minimum, among many other things which I do not have time now to enumerate, they should credibly promise to assist each other economically if any member is retaliated against by the PRC — or any other country, frankly — for mere non-violent advocacy.
Regardless of whether one favors Trump or Biden, regardless of whether a particular democracy leans center-left or center-right, so long as one claims to believe in ideals like the rule of law, human rights, and free speech, one should recognize that advancing those ideals requires putting aside our lesser differences. The CCP and other autocratic regimes would like nothing more than to continue dividing us along ethnic, religious, partisan, national, or various other solidarity-weakening lines. If we fall for it, those who will suffer most in the long run are the citizens of those regimes, few, if any, of whom really want to live in societies dominated by lies, fear, and violence. And, while lasting democratic change ultimately depends on the organic efforts of those citizens, those of us lucky enough to live freedom would do well to not undermine such efforts by letting increasingly powerful dictators play us against each other, to the detriment of democratic values everywhere.
Our solidarity must become a verb.