We can exploit Xi’s fear to gain leverage — and maybe to chip away at Chinese nationalism just a little bit — with three steps.
First, raise China’s blocking of outside news sites and social media platforms as a trade issue before the World Trade Organization. In a new book, “Schism,” about China and global trade, Paul Blustein explains how the U.S. could join with other countries to make such a trade case based on the W.T.O. agreement. Trade experts aren’t sure the case would succeed, but it’s worth trying.
A second step the United States should take is to invest more in internet circumvention technologies to help ordinary Chinese vault the Great Chinese Firewall and read uncensored news. The U.S. spends more than $700 million a year on broadcast programs to sometimes-obscure parts of the world, but only tiny sums to help citizens of closed countries access the free internet…
Then there’s a third step, still more delicate and dangerous: The American intelligence community should gather information on the corruption in the Xi family that has allowed it to amass a huge fortune — with a hint that if China undertakes a brutal crackdown of Hong Kong or an assault on Taiwan, this information will slip out. This is what Xi fears most, and we shouldn’t pass up that leverage.