National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien speaks in Washington, D.C., September 2020
Leah Millis / Reuters

For decades, conventional wisdom in the United States held that it was only a matter of time before China would become more liberal, first economically and then politically. We could not have been more wrong—a miscalculation that stands as the greatest failure of U.S. foreign policy since the 1930s. How did we make such a mistake? Primarily by ignoring the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party. Instead of listening to the CCP’s leaders and reading its key documents, we believed what we wanted to believe: that the Chinese ruling party is communist in name only.

Today, it

Finish reading this article for free.

Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.

In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.


Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.

Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.