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Needed: Bold Leadership, Focused Purpose

By LEAD Founder Mike Rogers

Current American leadership is setting America to lose to China. Make no mistake, unless we find real leadership in the White House, our sons and daughters will find their futures governed not by Washington and our values, but by Beijing.  

This era of strategic competition with China demands a bold vision and focused purpose. One shared by all Americans and understood by all Americans. Instead, the Biden administration is operating in a disjointed, disconnected, and unfocused manner, one that leaves us vulnerable to the strategic focus and purposeful action of Beijing. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.  

The administration is spending its time not arming the American people with the knowledge or the purpose that this competition demands, but stoking the fires of division and social discord. Where it should be providing a clarity of purpose and mission for our country’s contest with China, it is engaging in the politics of division. Instead of using the bully pulpit of the White House to make clear how China aims to contest American leadership at every turn, undermine our values, and dictate the rules of the road for the next century.  

Instead of focusing on the task at hand, setting America up for success, the White House is responding in a piecemeal fashion, using policies as stalking horses to advance their social agenda, simply cloaked in the language of competition. Scratch the surface of Biden’s policies on semiconductors or supply chain security and you will see a stalking horse for advancing their agenda, not put America on the footing it needs to compete and contest China’s aims. 

Many characterize this era of strategic competition as a new Cold War. If that is the case, it demands a new Ronald Reagan. A leader who can articulate to the American people not just what is at stake in our competition with China, but a better future for all Americans and a pathway to achieve that better tomorrow. It is not enough to point at Beijing and say they are a threat. More and more Americans seem to understand that, but fail to appreciate it and, more alarmingly, see a path toward American success. 

And we need that path now more than ever. If we do it right, the years ahead will not be ones of conflict and strife, but of peace, progress, and strength. At every turn, the challenges our country faces has a solution at home, one we can enact tomorrow and that will make our country stronger, more united, and more prosperous. The challenges we face at home are directly connected to our competition with China—something the White House fails to appreciate and, more importantly, articulate for the American people.  

Too many of our children cannot meet the math or reading standards of their grade level. If they are illiterate, how can they compete against China which is producing more computer science PhDs per year than our entire country graduates, let alone ensure a better future for themselves? China dominates the extraction and refining of critical minerals and rare earth metals. If we cannot get our permitting process right to unlock America’s domestic potential, how can we secure our supply chain against future disruptions whether from China or any other source?  

Beijing is rapidly modernizing its military, building the world’s largest navy, and spending more of its budget on defense, while we expect more from our men and women in uniform, yet provide them with fewer resources. We must listen to our military experts who are saying our country isn’t ready for a fight with Beijing. How can we assure Taiwan and deter China if we don’t have the navy necessary to dominate the waters of the Indo-Pacific?  

China has a plan and is marching forward while we argue amongst ourselves. Beijing is moving with alacrity to ensure politically, diplomatically, economically, and militarily that it decides the future of the international order. It senses weakness, and with good reason. Just this week, President Xi Jinping unveiled a new phrase that could well come to define China’s foreign policy, one that closed with “dare to fight”. Competition does not mean conflict, but we must listen to what China says to its own people, and “dare to fight” is a clear indication of Beijing’s intentions.  

As the campaign for the presidency begins, every American should ask the candidates, “what is your plan for China?” Really ask them if they understand what competition with China really means, and if they understand how Beijing wants to fundamentally change the international order. Ask them if they understand the truth Reagan realized and articulated so artfully: that in securing America we can make America stronger abroad, but more importantly, at home. That we can form a more perfect union for all Americans when we share a sense of purpose and mission.  

This new era demands smart, bold, focused, and serious leadership focused on solutions, not the easy empty victories of hollow politics. China expects the latter, and it’s time we confound their expectations and truly start competing.