Menendez Opening Remarks at Committee Hearing on Advancing U.S. Engagement and Countering China in the Indo-Pacific and Beyond
Announces new Democratic legislation to rebuild American leadership, invest in our ability to out-compete China in the generation ahead, and reverse Trump’s abandonment of our core values
WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered opening remarks at today’s committee hearing entitled “Advancing U.S. Engagement and Countering China in the Indo-Pacific and Beyond.” Testifying at the hearing were Department of State Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Senior Bureau Official Philip Reeker, and Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell.
“Given the shortcomings of President Trump’s ‘all bluster and tactics, no strategy’ approach to China in Europe, in the Western Hemisphere, and elsewhere, it is more and more clear by the day that we need a real strategy to cope with the competitive challenge of China,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “When we fail to show up as under President Trump we have we should not be surprised that China’s influence expands at our expense... This moment demands a strong, strategic response that can begin to rebuild American leadership and invest in our ability to out-compete China in the generation ahead.”
During his opening remarks, Menendez also announced he, along and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) are leading Senate Democrats today in introducing the America Labor, Economic competitiveness, Alliances, Democracy and Security (America LEADS) Act, as reported by the New York Times this morning. The sweeping legislation reaffirms American competitiveness in the global sphere and invests in American alliances, partners, and statecraft to effectively counter Chinese strategies and aggression.
“America LEADS provides a comprehensive and coherent strategic approach for addressing the new, competitive, US-China relationship and to define policies and allocate critical resources that combine and mobilize all aspects of U.S. national power....starting with a recognition that American competitiveness starts with investments here at home in our workers, in education, in science and technology, and in innovation and driven by the need, after almost four years of destruction under President Trump, to re-tool the US economy and workforce to compete in the twenty-first century,” Ranking Member Menendez added. “The broader diplomatic and security architecture of our strategic approach in America LEADS is grounded in getting China right by first getting the Indo-Pacific strategy ‘right,’ centered on our alliances and partnerships, and animated by the values that make America exceptional, and furthered by a forward-leaning approach to our economic statecraft and a tough, pragmatic and realistic appraisal of how to best combat China’s predatory economic and trade practices.”
Below are Ranking Member Menendez’s full remarks as delivered:
“Mr. Chairman, my thanks for convening today’s hearing. As you and I have discussed, we share a common view that we have entered a new and more competitive era with China — China now displaying global ambitions and where I think many on this Committee have concerns that the administration’s strategies and policies to deal with this new China still fall well short of answering the enormity of the challenge.
China today, led by the Communist Party and propelled by Xi Jinping’s hyper-nationalism is unlike any challenge we have faced as a nation before – and as we will have an opportunity to discuss today China today is also more active and more assertive around the globe than ever before.
And unfortunately, during the last four years, the Trump agenda has served to only empower Chinese aggression, weaken U.S. influence, and fail American workers. This moment demands a strong, strategic response that can begin to rebuild American leadership and invest in our ability to out-compete China in the generation ahead.
That is why today I have joined with a number of my Democratic colleagues to introduce the America LEADS Act. This bill seeks to do three things: (1) invest in American competitiveness; (2) invest in American alliances and partners; (3) invest in our values, and (4) invest in our economic statecraft and ensure China pays a price for its predatory actions.
America LEADS provides a comprehensive and coherent strategic approach for addressing the new, competitive, US-China relationship and to define policies and allocate critical resources that combine and mobilize all aspects of U.S. national power starting with a recognition that American competitiveness starts with investments here at home in our workers, in education, in science and technology, and in innovation and driven by the need, after almost four years of destruction under President Trump, to re-tool the US economy and workforce to compete in the twenty-first century.
The broader diplomatic and security architecture of our strategic approach in America LEADS is grounded in getting China right by first getting the Indo-Pacific strategy “right,” centered on our alliances and partnerships, and animated by the values that make America exceptional, and furthered by a forward-leaning approach to our economic statecraft and a tough, pragmatic and realistic appraisal of how to best combat China’s predatory economic and trade practices.
Critically, and relevant to today’s hearing, the legislation also includes provisions for the development and implementation of robust regional strategies to meet the challenge that China poses in Europe, the Western Hemisphere, Africa, the Middle East, the Arctic, and, of course, the Indo-Pacific itself.
I know the Chairman has China-centered legislation as well that addresses many similar issues, and, as we discussed at the hearing with Mr. Biegun the other month I look forward to working with him on the areas of convergence between our bills to forge a strong, unified, and bipartisan approach on this issue.
Turning more specifically to the hearing today, I am very interested in hearing from Ambassador Reeker and Ms. Chung to get a sense of their perspective on where we stand in their respective regions of responsibility, Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
There is a lively debate across EU countries and between Europe and the United States on the right approach to China. So as we here in the U.S. fully come to grips with developing the right policy, our friends in Europe should be among our closest partners.
I don’t know that anyone would argue that the President Trump’s destructive approach to the transatlantic relationship has made our efforts to advance a joint agenda on China any easier. Imposing tariffs on our allies is not a good recipe for success. Personally and publicly insulting leaders across Europe is not a recipe for success. An essential building block of our China response must have at its core a strong transatlantic alliance. Which today of course does not exist.
And for too long, the U.S. has sought to pressure Europe without providing real alternatives to China. 5G is perhaps the best example where the U.S. did not adequately emphasize European alternatives to Huawei while simply pressuring our allies. That sort of approach isn’t sustainable for forging a joint strategy on China.
But even within the strained confines of President Trump’s idea of transatlantic relations, we must endeavor to make progress. I welcome the call by the EU’s Joseph Borrell for a U.S.-EU working group on China. This is an important first step. The details will matter to ensure that it is not just another talk shop and I look forward to hearing more about this initiative from Ambassador Reeker.
The power of the American economy and European Union economy working together provides formidable negotiating leverage vis a vis China. In fact, it may be the sole factor that truly moves the needle with Beijing. We should be laser focused in enhancing that leverage to the fullest extent possible.
Here in our own hemisphere, U.S. diplomatic and economic engagement and China’s presence need not be viewed through the solitary lens of a zero-sum game. However, when we fail to show up as under President Trump we have we should not be surprised that China’s influence expands at our expense. And the President’s misguided belief that every challenge needs to be solved with a sledgehammer whether it was placing punitive tariffs on our North American neighbors or cutting off foreign assistance to our Central American partners—has only inflicted damage on the very relationships we need to counter the more corrosive elements of China’s engagement in our hemisphere.
And, frankly, the Trump administration's results speak for themselves.
Since 2017, at a rate of one per year, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador have broken diplomatic relations with Taiwan at the behest of Beijing.
In Venezuela, utilizing ZTE’s surveillance technology in the form of the Carnet de la Patria, the Maduro regime has expanded its social control over the Venezuelan people and remains firmly in control of its criminal cabal.
When our allies in Canada rightfully arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the United States, the Trump administration responded with little more than press statements as Beijing placed tariffs on Canadian trade and kidnapped Canadian citizens under fabricated criminal charges.
And, most recently, as Latin America and the Caribbean has become the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has over-promised and under-delivered on coronavirus assistance, while China’s government committed $1 billion in new lending to governments in the region for vaccine access and delivery.
And the Development Finance Corporation, which Congress stood up precisely to provide a new and reinvigorated approach to international finance and development assistance in part so that we can better compete with China, has yet to make significant investments in our own hemisphere.
When it comes to addressing China’s presence in our hemisphere, the Trump administration’s rhetoric has outpaced its actions and its attempts at swagger have surpassed the need for substance. We must course correct.
That’s why last month, I was proud to introduce the Advancing Competitiveness, Transparency, and Security in the Americas with Senators Rubio, Cardin, Cruz, and Kaine. This groundbreaking bipartisan bill will strengthen U.S. diplomatic, economic, and security assistance in the Americas, and help our closest partners acquire the tools they need to defend their national interests from China’s predatory practices.
Given the shortcomings of President Trump’s “all bluster and tactics, no strategy” approach to China in Europe, in the Western Hemisphere, and elsewhere, it is more and more clear by the day that we need a real strategy to cope with the competitive challenge of China. So I look forward to a genuine conversation with our witnesses about how we can work together to develop a comprehensive approach to China to reset our strategy and diplomacy to reinvest and replenish the sources of our national strength and competitiveness at home to place our partnerships and allies first and that reflects our fundamental values as Americans.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
Juan Pachon 202-224-4651
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