McConnell on Challenges Posed by China and Potential for Bipartisan Work

‘Getting America on stronger footing will not require some sweeping far-left transformation of our economy. It will mean continuing to complement the principles and ideas that are our greatest strengths. And it will mean working on these issues the right way, across the aisle.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding China:

“Tomorrow, the Secretary of State and the President’s National Security Advisor will have their first face-to-face meeting with Chinese officials.

“I’m glad our officials met with regional allies like Japan and South Korea right beforehand, and have been in touch with Australia and European allies as well. It’s essential that we and our friends present a united front. 

“Now, the United States and the whole world need the President’s team to deliver a strong message tomorrow.

“During the campaign, President Biden spoke dismissively about the threat from China. But thus far, in office, his team has shown signs they understand that Communist China threatens America, our allies, and the prevailing international system. 

“The world spent years presuming that welcoming China into the international community would inevitably cause its rulers to play by the rules. Twenty years ago, President Clinton said ‘economic innovation and political empowerment… will inevitably go hand in hand.’

“But since then, rather than the rest of the world exporting liberty and transparency into China, Beijing has found more success exporting authoritarianism and corruption beyond its borders.

“In Japan on Tuesday, Secretary Blinken called out the ‘coercion and aggression’ that China deploys at home and abroad. He said this Administration will push back on Beijing.

“That clear-eyed talk is welcome. But it’s just a first step.

“Walking the walk will mean actually responding in tough ways to espionage and cyberattacks, to violations of human rights, to military bullying, to stealing intellectual property and cheating on trade.

“If the Administration is up to the task, they’ll find strong partners in this Republican conference. 

“Here’s one big test: Are they willing to keep investing in our own defense?

“Our financial commitment to defending America is our most important policy lever in this competition.

“Our allies and adversaries do not heed American presidents because they’re charming or good-looking. The world has respected America for our overwhelming military and economic superiority. When that edge erodes, we invite trouble.

“As a share of our economy, American defense spending has fallen significantly — not just from Cold War-era heights, but even just recently.

“Meanwhile, China’s used its growing prosperity to modernize its military, develop new and longer-range weapons to hold U.S. forces at risk from further away, and turn a particular eye towards space and cyberspace.

“Defense spending is about protecting our homeland. Projecting power. Preserving global influence. Supporting our allies. It’s really a barometer of our national will. 

“It’s also about innovation and the future. Many life-changing innovations throughout our economy were first rooted in military R&D.

“Unfortunately, reports suggest the Biden Administration may plan to freeze defense spending. Of course that means a reduction, after inflation. Dozens of Democrats are pressuring the Administration for even steeper cuts.

“If the Administration is serious about competing with China, deterring Russia, and preserving American leadership, the most important test will be in the President’s budget submission.

“Some of our Senate Democratic colleagues have expressed interest in crafting bipartisan legislation relating to China.

“If any issue is ripe for a regular-order bipartisan process, it is this one.

“Defense spending is the crucial first step. But there are a whole variety of subjects concerning our competition with China that could benefit from a serious look.

“There is bipartisan support for improving security reviews of foreign investment and protecting against forced technology transfer…

“For cracking down on Chinese espionage and political influence campaigns…

“For supporting the people of Hong Kong, and human rights, and deterring aggression against Taiwan…. 

“There’s bipartisan support for fostering specific industries of national-security importance, such as semiconductors, and for broadly strengthening American R&D.

“There’s an opportunity for a fruitful discussion here. Certainly this is an area where bipartisanship will be especially crucial, so strategies don’t change schizophrenically with every election.

“As one of our Democratic colleagues said in a hearing yesterday, ‘the U.S. will not out-compete China… with short-term legislation and neverending uncertainty.’

“That’s another great argument for not trashing the legislative filibuster. Imagine if every action the Senate takes with national security implications were constantly subject to being wiped clean.

“While China plans years and decades at a time, our federal legislation would be reduced to a shelf life of a couple years.

“These issues need to be addressed thoughtfully and deliberately.

“Identifying critical technologies and the best ways to promote and protect advancements needs to be a smart, fact-based process. Not a political guessing game or throwing cash at industries with the right connections.

“Our work on this front should strengthen our ties with our allies and partners, not try in vain to go it alone.

“And the Democratic majority must resist the temptation to pile a long list of unrelated policy wishes into a big package and try to label it “China policy”.

“It would be quite a remarkable coincidence if our Democratic colleagues’ vision for a so-called China bill ends up indistinguishable from a list of things that just happen to delight liberal interest groups.

“Getting America on stronger footing will not require some sweeping far-left transformation of our economy. It will mean continuing to complement the principles and ideas that are our greatest strengths.

“And it will mean working on these issues the right way, across the aisle.”

Related Issues: Nominations