Sen. Bill Hagerty ‘Deeply’ Concerned with Biden U.N. Ambassador Nominee’s Past Praise of China

Afghanistan WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: Linda Thomas-Greenfield appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on her nomination to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, on Capitol Hill on January 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) is speaking out against President Joe Biden’s U.N. ambassador nominee, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, over a 2019 speech in which she praised China’s investment practices in Africa.

Hagerty, who was ambassador to Japan for two years and made his experience with East Asia a centerpiece of his successful 2020 Senate campaign, said the revelation that Thomas-Greenfield praised China for its “aggressive and troubling expansion into Africa” during the speech is “deeply concerning.”

Thomas-Greenfield spoke at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-funded Confucius Institute at Savannah State University in Georgia in 2019, where she discussed U.S., China, and Africa relations, according to a copy of the speech obtained by the Washington Post.

Hagerty was among several senators to scrutinize the speech upon its emergence, with some criticizing that it displayed approval of China’s predatory lending practices in Africa, specifically through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and others expressing concern that it was delivered at a Confucius Institute, which they described as a threat to academic freedom in that Confucius Institutes push the CCP’s agenda from within the United States.

Hagerty said in a statement that contrary to what Thomas-Greenfield’s speech indicated, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative is not a force for good, but an instrument of the Chinese Communist Party’s debt-trap diplomacy, corruption-driven capture of foreign elites, and predatory economic behavior around the world.”

He contended that the speech indicated Thomas-Greenfield did not have a full grasp on the magnitude of China’s position as a U.S. rival. “America needs a diplomat at the United Nations who fully comprehends the diplomatic, economic, technological, military, and moral dimensions of China’s challenge,” he said. “I regret that the nominee appears to have fallen far short here.”

In addition to Hagerty’s criticism, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) grilled Thomas-Greenfield on Wednesday over the speech during her confirmation hearing with the Foreign Relations Committee, questioning her decision to speak at the Confucius Institute and the speech’s content.

The nominee, who has a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, told the committee she regrets giving that particular speech and claimed she intended to deliver foreign affairs career advice to young people at Savannah State University, Georgia’s oldest historically black public university with which she had a longtime partnership.

“Truthfully I wish I had not accepted this specific invitation,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And I came away from the experience frankly alarmed at the way the Confucius Institutes were engaging with the black community in Georgia.”

On the nature of the speech being soft on China’s investment operations in Africa, the nominee acknowledged the communist country’s “self-interested and parasitic goals in Africa” and said her speech meant to convey that “Africans need to open their eyes on how they deal with the Chinese, and I would like to see the U.S. government do more in Africa to compete.”

Thomas-Greenfield is expected to be confirmed as ambassador, according to several reports.

Write to Ashley Oliver at


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