The folks over at Reason magazine have published an essay by Daniel Drezner titled “There is No China Crisis.” The essay is a long and meandering piece of apologia for the old DC model for dealing with China. I’ve written about this model and its failures before (especially see the posts “Give No Heed to the Walking Dead” and “China Does Not Want Your Rules Based Order;” I suppose these two book reviews I wrote for Foreign Policy are also relevant). Given how much I have written about it in the past, I am not really interested in revisiting that discussion now. I’ll simply note that it is silly for Drezner to imply that the flaws in the old model were not apparent until we got to the point where a million Uyghurs had been thrown in concentration camps and the NBA was held hostage for not parroting Communist line. The truth is that the interests, ideology, and goals of the Communist Party of China of 2019 were not so different from those of the Party of 2009, and it was around 2009, not 2017 or 2018, that the Party began a clear, decisive shift against the growing liberalism in their own country and the “threats” posed by liberal ideas and orders abroad. What was happening was undeniable by the time of the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012; that America’s political class only started taking the problem seriously in the last three years is evidence of just how difficult it can be to dislodge settled minds from their errors.
Which brings me back to Reason. More interesting than Drezner’s piece itself is Reason’s decision to publish it. Reason is the flagship magazine of the American libertarian movement. I like libertarians and libertarianism. I can’t bring myself to identify as one, but someone recently described me as “libertarian adjacent,” and I will not dispute the label. I am on board the “limited government” train, have a fellowship at the Mercatus Institute (to write a book on a topic unrelated to China), and room together with half the Cato Institute. I could be nudged fairly easily into something like what Tyler Cowen has been calling “state capacity libertarianism.” If someone can take Cowen’s general line of thinking, strip it of its technocratic gloss, and marry it to a Christopher Lasch-style take on republican self government as a good in and of itself, I will be on board. Such a program wouldn’t address what I see as the central social and cultural problems of our era, but I am unconvinced that the federal government is the tool one should use to solve those problems in the first place.
With that bit of throat clearing out of the way: from a libertarian perspective, the priorities of Reason’s editors do not make sense. I am reminded of a bar-side chat I had with Cato analyst Alex Nowrasteh in 2017 shortly after the “Muslim ban.” Libertarians had been so primed by the Obama years, Nowrasteh argued, to focus their fire on things like the college speech codes and Title IX that they had trouble seeing that the ground beneath them had shifted. They couldn’t see that in 2017 the Trump administration’s policies on immigration, homeland security, etc. were now the biggest threat to libertarian ideals on the docket. So many busied themselves tweeting about campus culture fights when a much larger game was afoot.
I suspect something similar has happened here with Reason and this piece on China. America’s foreign policy overreach and the collectivizing press of the European Union has been the driving force behind international statism for so long that libertarians now have trouble readjusting to the new world we live in. If you are actually interested in the extension of liberty across the globe— if you are fighting for the freedom of the human race—then it is important to assess what that world actually looks like.
Start here: one in every five humans on this earth is a subject of the Communist Party of China. This Party believes that it is in an “intense, ideological struggle” for survival, and the ideological threats it faces explicitly includes ideas like “separation of powers,” “independent judiciaries,” “human rights,” “Western freedom,”free flow of information on the internet,””civil society,” “total marketization,” “economic liberalism,” and “freedom of the press.” The Party believes that by allowing free markets, free thoughts, and free association into China they would be destroying the source of their power, and with it their ability to lead China into the future. The future they imagine is great: Xi Jinping has described it as “the eventual demise of capitalism and the ultimate victory of socialism.” The central task of the Communist Party of China, he urges, is “building a socialism that is superior to capitalism, and laying the foundation for a future where we will win the initiative and have the dominant position.” Ever ambitious, the Communists even have a date by which they hope to have secured this bid for “the initiative:” 2049. 
It is worth pausing here to reflect upon some of the implications of all this. Important things to note: the Communist Party of China believes that is is in an economic, political, and ideological contest for the future of the their country and the world; while military competition is not ignored by the Party, the central frame through which they view this contest is not geopolitics or military power. It is ideas that bother them. To win their contest for the future, the idea that their society could be more successful, wealthy, and powerful if it were free must be discredited or silenced. The Communists want a future where even the notion of a free, liberal China would sound ridiculous to anyone who hears it—that is, if anyone is brave enough to air it in the first place.
Within China the Party-state has built a vast apparatus of censorship and surveillance to control the traffic of ideas among the Chinese people. (An aside: the possibility that these technologies and innovations might be exported or copied by other countries should by itself be raising libertarian alarms, but I’ll leave the development of that thought for a later piece). But in an interconnected world this is not enough. So insecure is the Party in this fight over thought, that it now applies techniques it perfected to defeat ideas within China to the world outside it. The NBA-fiasco is the most prominent example of this. That gambit was made by prominent through its failure. The Party’s successes have gotten less air-time. The biggest of these successes have happened in Chinese diaspora communities, where a cocktail of surveillance, blackmail, intimidation, and bribery have silenced critics and brought one foreign Chinese-language publication to toe the Party line after another. Yet the targets are not always ethnically Chinese: the same coercive techniques have been applied to individual researchers, politicians, or media personalities, NGOs, corporations, whole industries and even entire countries. When the Party has enough leverage to win the contest of ideas by silencing them at their source, they do so.
So much for the silencing of ideas. The Communists’ vision for discrediting liberalism and free society is a more ambitious project. The current world order, maintains the Party leadership, is built to hold “socialism with Chinese characteristics” down. Xi Jinping has argued that the Party must “transform the global governance system” to something more amenable to authoritarianism. The Party calls their desired world order a “community of common destiny for mankind,” a future where (in the words of analyst Liza Tobin),
A global network of partnerships centered on China would replace the U.S. system of treaty alliances, the international community would regard Beijing’s authoritarian governance model as a superior alternative to Western electoral democracy, and the world would credit the Communist Party of China for developing a new path to peace, prosperity, and modernity that other countries can follow.” 
What Tobin describes as “a new path to peace, prosperity, and modernity” the Xi has variously described as “Chinese wisdom and a Chinese answer to solving the problems of the mankind,” “a new [achievement]…. in the history of the development of human society,” a “new and greater contribution to mankind,” and “new advance in political civilization.” Notice the scope of what the Party hopes to reshape. They hope not to remake China, nor even Asia, but “human society,” “civilization,” and “mankind.” As Politburo member Yang Jiechi exhorted in 2018, the time has come for the Party to “energetically control the new direction of the common progress of China and the world.” 
The Belt and Road Initiative is one attempt to kick start this process. I am fairly bearish on its progress thus far, but the Communists have made clear their intention to play this game on the long term. They hope that by increasing trade with and directly investing in the infrastructure of the developing world they can position themselves as the center of a new world order. Economic heft will be transformed to intellectual heft. A large number of these nations will adopt “Chinese solutions” to their own economic and political problems, be it managing recessions or managing political speech. These solutions will tie them closer to the People’s Republic, just as the political and economic transformations of the post-war world drew most of the globe into its intellectual and cultural orbit. The exact shape of the global-ideology to be is still being debated in China, but the consensus is that it must be an ideology that rejects free markets, universal rights, and political liberalism.
Military power and glory is a secondary adjunct to this story. Military supremacy is a means to an end, and that end is the glory of a China as a superpower, raised to the heights of international prestige by its ruling Communist vanguard. Military strength and national unification are thus part of this same gambit to build a new ideological world order (and secure the Party’s place at China’s head). As Chairman Xi put it, “the pattern of global governance depends upon the balance of power, and the transformation of global governance systems originates from changes in the balance of power.” Military bases abroad and fancy weapon shows at home are means of confirming the message China wishes to embed into the international order to their own people: our lack of freedom is what makes us strong. With the Communist Party in charge, no one will ever be able to threaten our stability or our honor ever again.
What should this mean for libertarians? Should it matter to libertarians that one in five human beings live in the grip of a Communist fist? That this Party grows more vicious and authoritarian in its dealings with its own people and more innovative in its search for new technologies and techniques of surveillance? That these same Communists have openly stated their intent to attack and absorb millions who now live free (e.g., in Taiwan)? That their leaders believe they are locked in global competition over the ideology of the future—and that their self described rivals are “liberals” and “capitalists?” That they will not feel secure in their victory until they can control ideas and association in the heart of liberal, capitalist nations? That they now extend their system of surveillance beyond their boarders? That they already use state control of the Chinese economy to coerce corporations, individuals, and entire countries into accepting their will? That their ultimate, self-declared goal is to build a world where capitalism is an anachronism? That to do this they are building a set of statist “Chinese solutions” for the direction of entire economies and societies—solutions they hope will be adopted in other countries? That the tyrants who believe these things and have these goals are on track to directly control the world’s largest economy and strongest military within two decades time?
Should that matter to libertarians?
I believe it should. I won’t pretend I know the full “libertarian” answer to this problem. But it is far past the time for libertarians—and Reason magazine—to take the problem with the seriousness it deserves.
 Tanner Greer, “Give No Heed to the Walking Dead,” Scholar’s Stage (1 July 2019); “China Does Not Want Your Rules Based Order,” Scholar’s Stage (4 June 2016); “Can American Values Survive in a Chinese World?“, Foreign Policy (12 October 2019); “Xi Jinping Knows Who His Enemies Are,” Foreign Policy (21 November 2019).
 Rush Doshi, “Hu’s to blame for China’s foreign assertiveness?,” Brookings Institute (22 January 2019) covers some of this ground, though parallel developments were happening in the realm of internet censorship and media control, attempts to bolster “ideological security” and “cultural security,” coercion of dissidents and Chinese diaspora communities abroad, reassertion of state prerogatives in the economic sphere, construction of the Chinese surveillance state, and a general broadening of the Party’s presence in every day life.
 All quotes taken from the “Document 9” memo. See “Document 9: A ChinaFile Translation,” China File (13 November 2013). For an investigation into the origins of these ideas and many other examples of their use, see Samantha Hoffman, “Programming China: the Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security,” PhD diss, University of Nottingham (2017). and Matthew Johnson, “Securitizing Culture in Post-Deng China: An Evolving National Strategic Paradigm, 1994–2014,” Propaganda in the World and Local Conflicts, 2017, 4(1).
 These quotes are pulled from Tanner Greer, “Xi Jinping in Translation: China’s Guiding Ideology,” Palladium (31 May 2019). For a collection of similar quotes to the same effect, with analysis, see Dan Tobin, “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should Have Ended U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions,” testimony delivered to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (13 March 2020).
 For a fairly comprehensive summary, see Matt Schrader, “Friends and Enemies: A Framework for Understanding Chinese Political Interference in Democratic Countries,” Global Marshall Fund (22 April 2020).
 Xi Jinping, “Improve Our Ability to Participate in Global Governance,” Governance of China, vol II (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2016), p. 488.
 Quote taken from Liza Tobin, “Xi’s Vision for Transforming Global Governance: A Strategic Challenge for Washington and Its Allies,” Texas National Security Review, vol 2, iss 1 (Nov 2018).
 Xi Jinping, “The People’s Wish For a Good Life is Our Goal,” Governance of China, vol I, p. 4; “A Bright Future for Socialism With Chinese Characteristics,” Governance of China, vol II, p. 13; Report for the 19th CPC National Conference, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (18 October 2017).
 杨洁篪，“近平外交思想为指导 深入推进新时代对外工作,” 求实 （1 August 2018). For those who read Chinese, this entire essay is actually a revealing statement of how all of the pieces of socialist ideology and China’s diplomatic strategy fit together. The full section I am drawing from here reads as:
 Nadege Rolland, China’s Vision of a New World Order, National Bureau of Asian Research report No. 22 (January 2020).
 Xi, “Improve Our Ability,” Governance, vol II, 489.