Thursday, January 28, 2021

Think Tank Publishes Anonymous Piece Calling for Xi Jinping's Ouster

The Atlantic Council has prominently displayed an anonymous paper on its website that essentially calls for the ouster of Chinese President Xi Jinping (link here).

 "The single most important challenge facing the [US] in the [21st] century is the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China Under President and General Secretary Xi Jinping," says the paper, which lays out a number of policy proposals and says if the strategy is successfully followed, "Xi in time will be replaced by the more traditional form of Communist Party leadership."

The think tank notes that that piece, entitled "The Longer Telegram: Toward a New American China Strategy," was written by a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China.  It does not say whether the author is a Democrat, Republican, or a foreign official.

Here is the reason the think tank gives for granting anonymity:

The author of this work has requested to remain anonymous, and the Atlantic Council has honored this for reasons we consider legitimate but that will remain confidential. The Council has not taken such a measure before, but it made the decision to do so given the extraordinary significance of the author’s insights and recommendations as the United States confronts the signature geopolitical challenge of the era. The Council will not be confirming the author’s identity unless and until the author decides to take that step.

It is the first time that Think Tank Watch has ever seen a think tank grant anonymity for someone's work, particularly one that is displayed as the leading banner for its homepage.

Atlantic Council says that it does not adopt or advocate positions on particular matters, but in publishing this piece, it clearly is promoting its contents.  The think tank's President and CEO Fred Kempe says it is one of the most important pieces the Atlantic Council has ever published.

The full 80-page paper can be read here.  And here is the executive summary.  Politico has also published a column by the anonymous author.

Some have noted that the release of the paper was timed for an event that the Atlantic Council co-hosted with other think tanks in which Jake Sullivan, President Biden's National Security Advisor, was participating in.  Other co-hosts included the US Institute of Peace (USIP), American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for American Progress (CAP), Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute.

Any ideas of who the author could be?  Please send any tips and ideas to Think Tank Watch. 


Updates & Reactions (updated Feb. 2, 2021): 

The Chinese Embassy is now denouncing the Atlantic Council piece.  Here is the official statement from the embassy. And here is what China's Foreign Ministry had to say.

In a Jan. 29 Global Translations piece, Politico notes that the author's name is being protected "so they and their family remain protected."

Here is Fred Kempe's CNBC op-ed on why he thinks the China piece is so significant.  The original piece published on Jan. 30 said that The Longer Telegram was written by a "former senior US government official," but on Jan. 31, the "US" was removed from the op-ed.  Does this suggest that whoever wrote The Longer Telegram is a foreign official?  [Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios has incorrectly cited the author as a "former US senior official."]

Kaiser Kuo, host of the Sinica Podcast, is convinced that Kevin Rudd is the author of The Longer Telegram.  Rudd, who has a degree in Chinese studies and is fluent in Mandarin, is the former Prime Minister of Australia.  He is, among other things, the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and a Senior Statesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative bashes "The Longer Telegram," saying it is a recipe for a costly failure.

Emma Ashford, a Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council who previously worked at the Cato Institute, notes that in every instance except one - Russia - the piece is a "departure more hawkish than even the current consensus in DC."

Wilson Center Fellow Edward Wong, who is also a diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times, calls it a "bland analysis" of US-China policy.

In a Twitter thread, Paul Poast, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, explains why The Longer Telegram "is a mess."

Freelance writer Phil Cunningham calls it a "sloppy, pedantic, overly-long, coyly anonymous, anti-China jeremiad."

Gregory Djerejian says that The Longer Telegram "falls flat."

Max Blumenthal, Editor of the Grayzone, says that the author sees China's embrace of Russia as a major threat to US hegemony, and urges a thawing with Russia to divide the two.  "This strategy was at the core of the triangular diplomacy conceived by Henry Kissinger, the longest-serving Atlantic Council board member," he says.  He thinks Kissinger wrote the piece.

For the record, Kissinger, who is 97 years old, joined Atlantic Councils' Board of Directors in 1967.

In a Global Times piece, Zhang Tengjun, Assistant Research Fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, calls the paper "a malicious attack on China."

SinoInsider's Don Tse and Larry Ong say that The Longer Telegram strategy is anti-China, not anti-CCP.

Paul Heer, a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the National Interest, says The Longer Telegram won't solve the China challenge.

Dr. Tara Kartha, the former Director of India's National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), says The Longer Telegram has a sharp message for India.

Updates will continue to be added in the coming days.