Book Review: The Hundred-Year Marathon

As a student of history and World War II (WWII) enthusiast, I have spent two decades traveling all across European WWII sites, and have also spent time in countries that toiled for 50 years behind the Iron Curtain of the former Soviet Union.  In fact, last year I spent the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, honoring and recognizing allied WWII veterans who landed in France to liberate the country, and the continent, from Fascism.  Whether Fascist or Socialist/Communist rule, there are definitely similarities to how these ideologies approach ruling their people and geopolitical influence.  

  1. All citizens and entities are subservient to the state, meaning the government.  No sacrifice is too great to further the position of the state.
  2. The government rules by force.  Intimidation, subjugation and removal of any person or entity in opposition is brutally enacted, and any pushback by outside nations will be met with denials, threats and accusations of bias/racism/xenophobia/etc.
  3. Propaganda reigns supreme.  It’s critical the state controls all information and creates a narrative to keep people ‘in-line.’  It is also equally critical the state controls the narrative from the youngest of the population to create indoctrinated and loyal subjects that will carry-out the will of the state.  
  4. Power is consolidated among a small group of state leaders.  Power & leverage over other nations can be delivered via military, economic and a wide range of geo-political means…and sometimes a combination of many.
  5. Disinformation and deception is a critical pillar.  Tell your enemies what they want to hear while plotting their demise through thievery, alliances and subversion tactics.  

I recently read, and highly recommend, the book “The Hundred-Year Marathon” – China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, and found it so appropriate and timely given my historical infatuation and the current geopolitical and human struggles during the Chinese COVID-19 pandemic.  The book is written by Michael Pillsbury, who served with Presidential administrations from Nixon to Obama, worked in senior positions within the defense department, has spent over 30 years studying and learning about China and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  

Mr. Pillsbury introduces the concept of the 100-year marathon, a long-term objective begun by the Chinese in the mid-1950’s to secure its “rightful” place as the world leader.  He describes their evolution from post-WWII and the massive destruction inflicted by Imperial Japan, to the rise of communism after the civil war between the communists and nationalists, to the absolute atrocities committed under the rule of Mao Zedong (estimates of 20MM – 40MM killed during the 1950’s), to the mild alignment with the Soviet Union in the 70’s and 80’s, to the eventual pivot toward the U.S. to help China build the economic powerhouse we know today.  He describes the eager position the United States was in to help China “evolve” away from the Soviet Union and become a free republic, and the incredible economic assistance the U.S. and allies provided to help China accomplish.  

What is most unsettling during the read is how China has been on a grand scale manipulation of the world, with a focus on the hegemon (the U.S.) to topple and replace the U.S. as the global leader.  Even the author admits China’s deception had him fooled in the earlier stages of his distinguished career.  The 100-year marathon is well-known within Communist Chinese government circles as the end game, and whatever means they need to take to achieve it are within bounds. From currency manipulation, to intellectual property (I/P) theft, to infiltration into the U.S. schools to influence a pro-Chinese narrative of history, to trade imbalances that restrict imports but drive exports, to military sharing with terrorist and criminal regimes like Iran and N. Korea, to human rights violations against their own people (see Tiananmen Square & the recent Hong Kong demonstrations).  China has become the master of selling the U.S., and the world, that it is a humble global servant, all the while plotting to overthrow and abuse its world power.  The free world has been only too eager to help them achieve this position by investing trillions into developing China into a first world technical and economic power.

Application to Current Events

Bear in mind the above, and then think about the current global pandemic.  Evidence from multiple intelligence sources is mounting that the Chinese COVID-19 virus originated in Wuhan, China, likely in a bio-research laboratory, and that the Chinese intentionally hid information on the virus and its potency, arrested their own people who sought to alert the world, and even stockpiled PPE supplies to deal with the aftermath all while continuing to lie to the world.  We have also learned the Chinese passed along bogus information to the WHO, destroyed key evidence that could have helped the world learn and adjust quickly, and even discontinued flights within China while continuing international flights throughout the world, spreading the virus globally.  As more intelligence was gathered implicating China’s responsibility, the Chinese government responded by blaming other countries with no basis of fact, selling the world millions of faulty respirators and products “made in China”, and significantly misled the world on the number of deaths caused by this virus.  China’s propaganda campaign has also been in full effect as the government blamed the rest of the world for being racist or discriminatory when world leaders called out their appalling and apocalyptic behavior.  

International sources suggest China wanted to prove it to be as good, if not better, than the U.S., in terms of its biological capabilities.  Yet in being woefully deficient in safety and quality protocols, Chinese researchers and scientists released a pandemic on the world, and intelligence reports continue to indicate the Chinese Communist Party lied about it, denied any wrongdoing, shifted the blame to others, sacrificed & silenced their own people, and in the process, destroyed a global economy.  Consider the mounting evidence against the Communist Chinese regime and think about the power they wield over countries and global organizations (ie, WHO), the intensity of their misinformation campaign, the devastating impact to the global economy based largely on their deceit and inaction, and their goal of global domination as covered in detail in the book.  

So, how does a global community devastated by this pandemic respond and map out a strategy going forward?  If nothing is done and Communist China is not held accountable, will they not be emboldened to deceive the world and use strong-arm tactics again the future?  What happened when Nazi Germany proceeded to annex the Sudetenland & Austria and the world did nothing?  What happened with the Soviet Union brutally squashed people’s revolts in Poland & Hungary and the world stood by without action?  It is partially the fault of Western powers that China is in this position of strength, but that does not mean the rest of the world is powerless, so a united and stern response is needed.  

Most importantly, the global community must question whether China is an ally and has a sincere interest in partnering with the rest of the world for a greater good.  From human rights violations, to bullying countries like Taiwan, to supporting rogue states like Iran and N. Korea, to being a global leader in pollution that contributes to ecological destruction, to being the source of multiple viruses including the current pandemic, to fostering an unfair trade & economic position, the case for China being a global steward for fairness and harmony across the globe is crumbling.  

Here is what a global response might look like to hold China accountable and re-set the geo-political balance:

  1. Through a joint resolution formulated with sovereign nations across the world, hold China in contempt on the global stage for their willful negligence, misinformation and dishonesty with respect to the Chinese COVID-19 virus.  Included in this resolution would be an advocacy for reparations that would include cancellation of all debt owed to China.  
  2. A reconsideration of China’s position on any human rights council, and a balanced review of whether their actions warrant such an important position.  
  3. Understand and accept the unlikely scenario that China will be “turned” to a free republic.  After all, historically this has not been a reasonable probability since the late 1940’s and seems to be naïve thinking given today’s global climate.  The Communist Chinese government continues to behave in stark contrast to a country built upon the foundational freedoms of a republic, evidenced by multiple sources which have linked Communist China to supporting the likes of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Supreme Leader in Iran and the multiple lunatic dictators of N. Korea, as well as embarking on cleansing campaigns against Christians & Muslims within the country.  
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has shockingly exposed the global over-reliance on China for manufactured goods.  Just as Japan has instituted recently, the United States & allies across the world have ample evidence that an insourcing strategy is needed to bring back to local markets 30% – 50% of the hundreds of billions of dollars that were outsourced to China for manufacturing.  Of utmost importance is anything that is critical for life sustaining support (ie, medical & drug supplies), defense & military items and technical & digital items that can be weaponized for misinformation and technology theft.  In concert with an insourcing initiative would be a strategic review of any Chinese company (remember, they all answer to the government) involved in important infrastructure and development projects in our country, and establishing clear rules of engagement that would not allow state-run firms (or state-influenced firms, which means all of them) to have any ability to bid on items of communication & security.
  5. Not unlike the enormous trade imbalance favoring China, there is also a dramatic imbalance of Chinese students attending global universities (especially in the U.S.) while very few international students are allowed to attend Chinese universities.  Given this is likely driven by the Communist Chinese government, a strong statement geared to re-establishing balance would be to cease all inbound visas and exchange sharing of Chinese students coming to learn from U.S. universities.  Likewise, there is continued rationale for applying economic pressure with trade tariffs on Chinese goods.  
  6. One of the great fears of Communist China is to be surrounded.  In fact, The Art of War, covered extensively in the book, forms a foundation for Communist Chinese thought and perspective.  They rely on learnings from thousands of years of conflict, and understand how becoming surrounded mitigates power and creates unrest.  In a forward-thinking, strategic approach, there is a historic opportunity to create a free republic zone of trade with a host of non-communist nations who retain a shared distrust of China, a general desire and respect for freedom, as well as a fear of China’s expansionist plans.  This would include S. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam, Myanmar and possibly India, and should include a large investment of infrastructure, commerce and defense with all nations participating and aligning on a shared objective of keeping southeast Asia free, safe and prosperous.  By creating this zone that would encourage freedom of exchange, expression and investment, China would be placed in a difficult situation and have to decide whether they want to engage and participate as a global partner or continue on their quest for global domination.  
  7. Finally, a strong response and, in this author’s opinion, a long overdue step, would be to welcome Taiwan to the WHO & recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty as a separate and free nation (more in-line with the United States).

I encourage you to read the book, think about what is happening during the current pandemic, and what we can do to implement safeguards for democracy to foster a safe, free, balanced and prosperous future.  Most importantly, let’s learn from today so we don’t make the same mistakes tomorrow.