WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a full committee hearing on advancing effective U.S. competition with China, with witness testimony from Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun.
Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement:
“Thank you all for coming today – I want to thank all of you for being here. It is an honor to have Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun here today to testify on U.S. policy regarding the People’s Republic of China. I had originally planned to hold this hearing back in March. However, the need to focus on COVID-19 prevented us from doing that. Even as we continue to address the pandemic and its impact on U.S. citizens, it is important that this committee continue its work on the world’s most pressing foreign policy challenges. Obviously, China is one of those.
“That is especially the case for the topic we are discussing today. As the Trump Administration has correctly recognized, China is a strategic and global competitor of the United States. It will be the greatest foreign policy challenge the United States faces in the decades to come. The policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) undermine U.S. interests and values, including those we share with allies and partners around the world.
“COVID-19 has brought this challenge to the forefront of American life. We now know just how much the CCP’s decisions and actions directly affect U.S. citizens, our allies and partners, and the entire world. And we know not even a global pandemic will stop China’s aggressive behavior – whether that’s in Hong Kong, the South China Sea, or along the Indian border.
“Over the last three years, the Trump Administration has taken numerous steps to put the United States on a stronger path to competing with China. Last week I was glad to see long overdue sanctions on CCP officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet. I was also pleased that we declared China’s claims in the South China Sea as unlawful, and deployed two carrier battle groups there for exercises. And after the CCP crushed Hong Kong’s autonomy, the president made the tough but necessary decision to end certain types of special treatment for Hong Kong.
“In May, the administration published a report on the implementation of its China strategy that goes into more detail. So this is a good time for the Committee to conduct oversight regarding our objectives, what we’ve done, and where we go from here.
“This is also an opportunity to discuss China legislation put forward by members of this committee and others. This week, I introduced the Strengthening Trade, Regional Alliances, Technology, and Economic and Geopolitical Initiatives Concerning China Act (STRATEGIC Act). It is a comprehensive approach to China with concrete policies in several key areas of the competition. I’ll describe some of them briefly.
“We must continue our focus on China’s anti-competitive economic policies. The Chinese government engages in intellectual property theft and massive financing of Chinese companies, and the most abusive anti-free market tactic of forced technology transfer. This is a horrible practice – it’s reprehensible.
“These policies are designed to push others out of the market and create monopolies. Innovative American companies like Micron Technologies, based in my home state of Idaho, know these challenges well. Their intellectual property was stolen by a Chinese company, who then patented that technology in China and sued Micron. The STRATEGIC Act authorizes new tools for U.S. companies to address the harms caused by such policies, among several other provisions.
“To maintain our economic and technological edge, it’s not enough to just push back on what China is doing. We also have to strengthen and invest in ourselves. In other committees, I have focused on this issue by supporting legislation promoting U.S. manufacturing of critical technologies, fortifying cyber security for our infrastructure and small businesses, and strengthening our technology workforce.
“The STRATEGIC Act focuses on increasing technology collaboration with allies and partners. America is a world hub for innovation, and we can boost that innovation further by working with our highly capable partners. If we do, we will all be in a better position to develop the technologies of the future, and ensure they are used to uphold individual freedom, human rights, and prosperity.
“Finally, I want to stress the importance of deterrence. The United States, of course, does not seek any sort of military confrontation with China. However, China’s military is getting bigger, more capable, and becoming more aggressive. In the Indo-Pacific region, we should all be a lot more worried about the CCP’s plans for Taiwan, given what it just did to Hong Kong. In addition to the South China Sea, Japan faces almost daily incursions and pressure in the East China Sea. Beyond the region, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is also helping the Chinese military expand its presence.
“We have to make it completely clear to the CCP that we are willing and able to defend our interests. That means reaffirming our commitments to our Indo-Pacific allies – even as they need to take on a larger role in defending the interests we share. The STRATEGIC Act focuses on key steps for advancing defense cooperation with our allies, including advocating for several difficult but important policy changes.
“I want to stress that this bill that I’ve introduced does not seek to block China. Rather, what it does is it offers prosperity. It offers an invitation to join the international community and operate under the rule of law and under international norms. If that happens, we all will prosper.
“We should not miss the bipartisan opportunity that we have today to address these things. I’ll close with a note about bipartisanship.
“Time and time again – on everything from human rights to investment screening – the Senate has worked across the aisle on China. But unfortunately, in recent months, that has become a lot harder. We have a long road ahead of us in this competition. We cannot allow partisanship to get in the way, even in an election year. Whatever happens in November, China will remain an issue. If we do not work together, the United States as a whole will be weaker.
“I introduced this bill to push forward a serious, and bipartisan, conversation about the Senate’s role in advancing an effective strategy of competition. I want to thank several of my colleagues on this committee, from both sides of the aisle, for joining me in that effort. There is both Republican and Democrat input into this bill, not only from this committee, but also from think tanks around Washington, D.C., including Democrat think tanks. And I hope this will be the start of more cooperation to come.
“When we get to a final bill, I’m very hopeful that that bill will contain items that everyone has an interest in. There’s been a number of people that have introduced bills. I know the ranking member is about to introduce a bill – I have no doubt that there will be things in there that we can all embrace. And I hope that as we get to a final bill, we will have things that we can embrace on a bipartisan basis.
“With that, I will turn it over to the ranking member, Senator Menendez.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. The witness’ testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.