‘Longer Telegram’: Ideas matter in reboot of China strategy


Atlantic Council

China’s Xi Jinping “presents a serious challenge to the whole of the democratic world,” according to an important new analysis. The threat demands that U.S. and other liberal democracies “prosecute a full-fledged, global ideological battle in defense of political, economic and societal freedoms against China’s authoritarian state-capitalist model.”

In 1946, the American diplomat George Kennan wrote a lengthy cable to Washington—since dubbed the “Long Telegram”—laying out the basis for the next several decades of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, POLITICO reports. He published his work as an article under the simple pseudonym “X.” In that spirit, a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China has published with the Atlantic Council a bold and ambitious new U.S. strategy toward its next great global rival. 

Ideas still matter in politics and international relations, the new Long Telegram insists:

Prevailing over the long term against a rival like China is not just a question of the balance of power, critical though that is. How a people think about themselves, the types of societies being built, the economies under development and the polities that evolve to resolve differences, all profoundly shape worldviews.

This contest of ideas will continue. Xi has already thrown down the ideological gauntlet to the United States and the West with his authoritarian capitalist model. The challenge for North Americans, Europeans and other liberal democracies who believe in open economies, just societies and competitive political systems, is to have continuing confidence in the inherent efficacy of the ideas upon which they rest.

National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

A new strategy necessarily entails “defending (and as necessary reforming) the current rules-based liberal international order and, critically, its ideological underpinnings, including core democratic values,” adds the document, published by the Atlantic Council:

This strategy must also be long term—able to function at the timescale that a Chinese leader like Xi sees himself ruling and influencing China’s central political apparatus. And U.S. politics must be fully operationalized to put this strategy into effect, transcending the rhetorical buzzwords that have too often substituted for genuine U.S. vision when it comes to Beijing. Defending our democracies from the challenge posed by China will require no less. RTWT

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