Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) fired a verbal volley at the Chinese Communist regime in a speech at the Reagan Institute on Thursday as he unveiled his latest report on U.S. strategy toward China: “Beat China: Targeted Decoupling and the Economic Long War.”
Cotton said in his opening remarks:
This evil empire preys on and spies on Americans. It imprisons innocent people in concentration camps, it uses slave labor to fuel its factories and it denies the most basic freedoms to all of its 1.4 billion people. We need to beat this evil empire and consign the Chinese Communists — just like the Bolsheviks — to the ash heap of history.
Cotton criticized U.S. policy towards China over the last several decades where politicians engaged China as a strategic partner while American corporations worked to integrate their economies, hurting American workers.
“Many believed that open markets and open borders would make China rich, and then make China free. So for decades they fed the tiger and made it more powerful,” he said. He added:
A tidal wave of Chinese imports flooded our markets, sweeping away millions of high-paying American manufacturing jobs, and devastating the communities that depended on those factories. This did indeed make China rich. But instead of reforming and becoming free, the Communist Party began to exploit the new connections between our free society and its totalitarian society.
As American schools began accepting hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals each year to work and study, the Chinese government turned some of them into spies, he said.
When U.S. companies tried to access China’s huge consumer market, Beijing forced them to hand over proprietary technology and pledge never to speak out against the Party in any way, or speak up for its victims, he added.
And finally, after America outsourced production of even essential goods to China, the Chinese Communist Party began threatening to cut it off, he said. He said this week, the Chinese government proposed export controls on rare-earth elements essential to the F-35, the U.S. military’s most advanced weapons system.
“China has a virtual monopoly on rare-earth mining and processing. That means Beijing could ground our jets at almost any time, just by cutting off access to a few key inputs. It’s sad that a great nation would ever find itself in such a position,” he said.
“The Chinese Communist Party is no paper tiger, and we cannot afford to wait passively for its collapse or reform,” he said.
However, he noted growing American will to confront China and said it would be difficult today for President Joe Biden to toast CCP Chairman Xi Jinping at the White House as he did less than 10 years ago. “Today such an event would be a grave scandal,” he said.
He called for a number of reforms and steps the U.S. should take to ensure it is not defeated by China.
He said the U.S. government should expand the Trump administration’s financial sanctions against the CCP’s worst actors to include Chinese companies that steal American intellectual property (IP), or that benefit from stolen IP. “The message should be clear: steal from Americans once, look over your shoulder forever,” he said.
He also called for terminating China’s Permanent Normal Trade Relations status and returning to the old system where the U.S. president and Congress would review China’s trade privileges each year, in light of its progress on human rights.
He said the U.S. should tighten export controls to prevent China from obtaining cutting-edge technology with military applications, such as semiconductors, 5G telecommunications equipment, Artificial Intelligence, and quantum computers, he said.
Cotton also said the U.S. should boost investment in research and development (R&D) and manufacturing so the future of those critical technologies is made in America, not China. And he said the U.S. should also bring back production of critical goods, such as essential medicines, medical supplies, and rare-earth elements.
He said the U.S. should seek to cut off the “spigot” of money from China to American elites.
“We need to cut off the spigot of money that has fueled China’s rise and corrupted our elites, creating a China Lobby stretching from New York and Washington to Silicon Valley and Hollywood, touching corporate boardrooms and college campuses in between,” he said.
He also called for a number of measures to strengthen U.S. scrutiny of Chinese investments and Chinese students coming to study in the U.S. in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
He recommended that American export-control authorities such as the Bureau of Industry and Security be moved from the business-minded Department to Commerce to a national security-focused department such as the State Department, and for the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to be expanded, with a separate task force devoted to sanctioning China’s IP “thieves, military companies, and state-owned puppets.”
He recommended giving the Secretary of Defense a more prominent role at CFIUS, a body that examines Chinese investments that risk U.S. national security.
In closing, he cautioned Americans to look at what the CCP is doing to its minority Uyghur population to see how it will treat the rest of the world if it becomes the dominant superpower.
He said during a trip to China’s western Xinjiang Province in 2014, Xi “called for an ‘all-out struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and domination” by using the “organs of dictatorship” to show “absolutely no mercy.”
“If that’s what the Chinese Communist Party does to its own people, imagine what it’ll do to the rest of the world. And while many countries deplore the Party’s tyranny, only one country is in the position to stop it. That’s the United States of America. That’s our new rendezvous with destiny,” he concluded.
“Let’s pour our whole hearts into meeting this challenge so America and the Free World prevail once again.”
Senator Cotton’s report can be read here.