WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following open statement at a full committee hearing on China:
Let me welcome our witnesses. Thank you for your time and expertise this morning. Welcome to members of the public and the press as well. Today we will examine U.S. strategy toward China.
China represents a profound strategic challenge all around the world economically, geopolitically – and even, potentially, militarily. At the same time, China is a necessary, if sometimes difficult, partner in certain areas.
In 2019, we mark 40 years since the United States normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China. We did so then because we recognized what remains true today: the U.S.-China relationship is one of the most consequential relationships in the world. In many ways, the nature of that relationship shapes the world we live in today.
So we need to get it right.
Over the past four decades, the United States has facilitated China’s rise. We supported China joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, which opened the Chinese market and helped bring the country into the world economy. American firms and venture capital have flowed into China over the years – including in the Chinese technology market which has become a matter of a strategic concern for our government today.
The United States made a gamble that as China became more and more involved on the global stage, it would open up domestically and become a constructive stakeholder in the international system.
It’s pretty clear that gamble hasn’t paid off in the way we hoped it would.
While the United States has been embroiled in costly and seemingly endless conflict in the Middle East over the last two decades, China has grown into the second largest economy in the world – a fact that has propelled many of China’s geopolitical ambitions.
Our original hope was that this growth would come in tandem with China abandoning its authoritarian tendencies, that we could somehow shape Beijing’s incentives to better fit our interests. But that just hasn’t come to pass.
China today under Xi Jinping is a powerful nation with a long-term agenda and vast resources. In global affairs, China often stands opposite the United States, and not just on democratic values or support for human rights. As the United States retreats from the world under the Trump Administration’s policies, Xi Jinping is eager to present China as an alternative to the American model of global leadership. But, it’s a stark reality.
Bullying China’s neighbors in the South China sea, exploiting corrupt officials to smooth the way for strategic investments in Africa and Latin America, building out a global technology infrastructure beholden to Beijing’s interests, putting more than a million Muslims in Western China in concentration camps—and managing to keep the world silent about it. There’s no question that China is a determined actor that doesn’t share our country’s fundamental values.
I’m pleased that the Trump Administration’s National Security Strategy identified China as a competitor and Chinese influence globally as a challenge that must be prioritized.
But competition itself is not a strategy. The scale of these challenges demands that we put forward a cohesive, coordinated response to China. We should work with our allies to develop and implement that strategy. After all, our allies are the greatest advantage when it comes to advancing our interests and values around the world.
As we sit here, the Trump Administration is preparing for another round of trade talks with Chinese leaders tomorrow—up to $200 billion in additional tariffs are possible, according to the Administration. Our negotiators should seek to get the best deal possible for American workers. But trade wars and bellicose rhetoric alone are certainly not a strategy.
So, the question is—what does a smart competition with China look like?
It starts with investment here at home to make the United States more competitive. That’s what China’s been doing for years, while we have poured energy and resources into costly wars and tax cuts for the wealthy, and spent far too little investing in our people—in the middle class—and in areas like infrastructure, scientific research, and education.
We also need to double down on our strengths. The United States has long been a global leader that articulates our values—our commitment to democratic principles of openness, freedom, and human rights. We haven’t always lived out these values perfectly—and right now, it seems like we can barely see them in the rear-view mirror—but if we fail to hold them up as a global standard, we do ourselves a great disservice. This is certainly an area where we distinguish ourselves from China.
And while doing all of this, we must work with China on challenges we all share. From non-proliferation, to climate change, to global health and pandemics, our interests often align with those of China. We must be able to work together to tackle these global challenges.
I’m eager to hear from our witnesses on how we should be orienting ourselves toward the next 40 years in the U.S.-China relationship.
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