March 13, 2019

Menendez Opening Remarks at Hearing on U.S.-China Competition

“Merely being more confrontational with China does not make us more competitive with China.”


WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the opening of a committee hearing this morning titled “a New Approach for an Era of U.S.-China Competition.”

“Let me thank Senator Talent and Dr. Mastro for joining us today, and helping us understand one of the biggest foreign policy challenges on our nation’s agenda: Dealing with the strategic challenge of a rising – and perhaps risen – China.

When we consider the strategic challenge of China the characterization does speak to a deeper truth: China is playing four dimensional chess across every element of national security… militarily, economically, diplomatically, and culturally.

In the maritime domain and in the South China Sea, in particular, China’s aggressive island-building campaign and its rejection of international law threaten not just regional stability but long-standing U.S. interests in the free flow of commerce, freedom of navigation, and diplomatically resolving disputes consistent with international law.

Economically, I sincerely hope that the current US-China trade negotiations will result in real structural reform. Over the past decade we have seen a determined China bend the rules to its own benefit on trade and economic matters as it made its way to be the world’s second largest economy.  But structural challenges remain: in China’s often cyber-enabled theft of Intellectual Property Rights; in its unfair advantages by manipulating market access; and in its underwriting of State owned enterprises. And the entwined relationships between companies like Huawei and the Chinese national security apparatus raise serious questions.

Diplomatically, China continues to build its own brand of international diplomacy, often rooted in manipulative investment. More subtly, China’s Belt and Road initiative has seen its influence work its way across the world in port contracts and United Nations voting patterns.  Overtly, China continues cooperation with North Korea, where, after some initial toughening in 2017 and 2018, we once again see a lessening of pressure out of concern for regime stability.

China has developed complex influence campaigns by traditional and non-traditional means.  China may not manipulate social media the way we saw with Russian tradecraft in 2016, but its tentacles of influence are far-reaching. The launch of Confucius Institutes on many US campuses, the desire the set up Party Cells in US businesses, and espionage that is targeted at both universities pursuing high tech research all speak to the pervasive extent of China’s united front efforts.

And while we consider Chinese foreign policy endeavors, let us also point out that domestically, Xi Jinping has overseen the emergence of a neo-Maoist authoritarian model and a total surveillance state. The government’s brutal crackdown on the Uighurs in Xinjiang including internment an estimated one million people in camps subjected to 'reeducation campaigns', forced labor, and total surveillance.

All of which makes constructing an effective China policy uniquely-challenging for U.S. policymakers. 

I know it may surprise some of my colleagues, but I agree with President Trump when it comes to recognizing the scope of the challenge that China presents to the United States and to the entire international order. But I do not think the President has found the right approach.

As others have noted, merely being more confrontational with China does not make us more competitive with China.

So we have to ask: are there still opportunities for cooperation? What are the risks of the competition becoming conflict?   Thirty years ago we debated whether or not China would rise to be a major power.  Ten years ago we were wondered what sort of power China would be. Today the book is not by any means closed. On the contrary, new pages and chapters of the book are starting to emerge - and I have to tell you, Mr. Chairman, the reading so far is not promising.

We must be holistically strategic, leveraging all of our diplomatic tools. Slashing America’s foreign affairs budget across the globe, as the administration has yet again proposed, weakens our ability to effectively confront China’s economic and diplomatic reach around the globe.

As we contemplate a more competitive environment with China we also need to pay attention to building, not destroying, our alliances and partnerships.

I have repeatedly argued that core American values must be at the centerpiece of our foreign policy. China’s model is appealing, sadly, in all too many parts of the world.  We must offer a better model.

In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, and a strong partnership with Taiwan, we celebrate the values of a flourishing democracy.

So, I look forward to the thoughts of our witnesses today on how should we evaluate current state of play between the United States and China, how to better understand the strategic and economic realities unfolding with the rise of China, and how to best structure U.S. policy to safeguard our national interests and our values.”=


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