Gardner Addresses Future of U.S.-China Relationship

“…only tough resolve from the United States and our partners can impact Beijing’s actions and calculus.”

Washington, DC – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, today chaired a hearing entitled “The Changing Landscape of U.S.-China Relations: What's Next?”

In his opening statement, Senator Gardner addressed several points about China’s recent behavior in the South China sea, its activity in cyberspace, and its leverage over the North Korean regime.

Senator Gardner’s remarks, as prepared, read:

Today’s hearing comes at an opportune time, with President of the Republic of China, Xi Jinping, having just concluded his state visit to the United States. 

Prior to this visit, I sent a letter to President Obama with three of my colleagues on this Committee, urging the President to demonstrate leadership and deliver a strong message of U.S. concern to President Xi regarding the troubling trajectory of China’s foreign and domestic policies.

I urged the President to reiterate that China’s recent destabilizing actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea, their behavior in cyberspace, and their human rights abuses are actions fundamentally at odds with a country that wants to be considered a peacefully rising global power.

China has declared an illegitimate Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea and has dramatically expanded its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. According to the Pentagon, China has created about 3,000 acres of new land over the past 18 months and has “deployed artillery, built aircraft runways and buildings and positioned radars and other equipment.”

While on a visit to Beijing last month, I had an opportunity to engage a top official from the People’s Liberation Army on this issue and came out convinced that only tough resolve from the United States and our partners can impact Beijing’s actions and calculus.

China’s actions mean that we must urgently pursue enhanced security measures with our traditional and emerging allies in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure future peace and stability.

First and foremost, we must enhance the capabilities of like-minded partners in the region with regard to maritime security, starting with the effort recently announced by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called the ‘Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative’. And we should never miss an opportunity to reiterate our policy, as stated by Secretary Carter at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 30, 2015: “The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as U.S. forces do all over the world.  America, alongside its allies and partners in the regional architecture, will not be deterred from exercising these rights — the rights of all nations.”

China’s behavior in cyberspace has also emerged as a serious threat to U.S national and economic security. Regrettably, well-documented state-sponsored or state-endorsed Chinese activities have not been met with an appropriate response from the United States. Although last year, the Administration announced criminal charges against 5 officials of the People’s Liberation Army, clearly that has not been enough to deter further bad behavior from Beijing.

I am deeply disappointed that despite the new Executive Orders issued on January 2 and April 1, 2015, this Administration has not penalized a single entity responsible for national security threats or commercial cyber-enabled activities directed against our nation and emanating from China.

On my trip to Beijing, I met with China’s Cybersecurity Minister Lu Wei and had a frank conversation about these issues.  We agreed that China and the U.S. must continue to talk about building international norms in cyberspace and we’ve seen very modest progress on this issue with the cyber agreement announced last Friday.

But given the grave threat China’s activities represent to U.S. national and economic security interests, this Administration and future Administrations should never hesitate to use the punitive tools at their disposal, such as criminal charges and sanctions, to punish any and all Chinese-sponsored cybercrime.

We also urgently need U.S. leadership to reverse China’s deplorable human rights record, which recently included illegal detention and harassment of more than a 100 lawyers in China.

The United States must have consistent and assertive diplomatic engagement with China to reinforce that all of these behaviors fall outside of accepted international norms.

We should also build a strong trilateral partnership between U.S., Japan, and South Korea, in the hopes that it will put the right kind of pressure on Beijing to play by established international rules.

I believe that a mature, productive, and peaceful relationship with Beijing is in the national security and economic interest of the United States. The United States can and should seek to engage China to solve complex regional and global challenges.

For instance, the United States must continue to engage China on the threat of the North Korea, since Beijing holds to key to the survival of that regime – and that is a message I reiterated to Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing during our meeting last month.

However, the actions by China I mentioned today seriously jeopardize our bilateral relations and are not befitting of a peaceful rising global power that China claims to be. These actions require a strong U.S. response and leadership, consistent with international norms and in concert with our traditional and emerging allies in the Asia-Pacific.

Unfortunately, in my reading of the outcomes of this summit, the big issues I mentioned today seemed left largely unaddressed.

So what did this state visit achieve to change this sorry state of affairs in U.S.-China relations?  Can Beijing turn from a path from confrontation to cooperation? What should the U.S. policy be to affect positive change in Beijing’s behavior? 

I look forward to our witnesses addressing these and other questions today.                                                                                      


Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.                                                                                                                                        

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