Gardner, Barrasso, Isakson, Perdue Urge President Obama To Deliver A Strong Message To China

Washington, DC – Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), John Barrasso (R-WY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and David Perdue (R-GA) today sent a letter to President Obama ahead of the state visit of the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. The Senators urged President Obama to “demonstrate strong leadership” and condemn China’s recent destabilizing actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea, its behavior in cyberspace that threatens U.S. national and economic security, as well as China’s human rights abuses. Additionally, they reiterated that while the U.S. should seek a “mature, productive, and peaceful” relationship with China, President Obama must deliver a strong message to President Xi that “China must play by international rules or face the consequences.”

Dear Mr. President,

In advance of the state visit of the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Xi Jinping, we write to urge you to demonstrate leadership and deliver a strong message of U.S. concern regarding the trajectory of China’s foreign and domestic policies. 

We urge you to reiterate that China’s recent destabilizing actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea are contrary to international law and necessitate a strong U.S. and regional response. China has declared an illegitimate Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) 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.” 

We hope you deliver the message that the United States considers these actions unacceptable and will continue to stand for freedom of navigation and support our allies in the region to legally and otherwise challenge the PRC’s groundless claims of sovereignty, such as the so-called “nine-dash line.”  We fully agree with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s statement, delivered 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 emerged as a serious threat to U.S national and economic security and we urge you to make this issue a top priority during President Xi’s visit. We are concerned that well-documented state-sponsored or state-endorsed PRC activities have not been met with an appropriate response from the United States. Pursuant to criminal authorities at your disposal as well as the new Executive Orders 13687 and 13694, issued on January 2 and April 1, 2015, we urge you to penalize all entities that your Administration considers to be responsible for national security or commercial cyber-enabled activities directed against our nation. We urge you to reiterate to President Xi that China’s actions are fundamentally at odds with the goal of “open, interoperable, secure, and reliable information and communications infrastructure that supports international trade and commerce, strengthens international security, and fosters free expression and innovation”, as stated in your 2011 International Strategy for Cyberspace.

You should likewise voice serious U.S. concern over China’s domestic trajectory, such as the intensifying human rights abuses and crackdown on civil society by the PRC authorities. According to the State Department’s 2014 annual human rights report on China: “Repression and coercion were routine, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest issues, ethnic minorities, and law firms that took on sensitive cases.” The most recent example of this disturbing trend is the illegal detention and harassment of more than a 100 lawyers in China.  We also urge you to reiterate that the new draft laws in China concerning non-governmental organizations and the Anti-Terrorism Law seem to empower China’s unaccountable public security apparatus at the expense of the fundamental freedoms of its citizens.

As the United States and China continue to negotiate a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), we urge you to raise with President Xi the continuing concerns of the U.S. business community regarding ongoing and rampant intellectual property theft, new regulations that seek to discriminate against American companies, anti-market policies that favor state-owned enterprises, lack of transparency, and other policies that create an uneven playing field for U.S. enterprises in China. While many American firms still look to China as a top priority to grow and succeed in the global marketplace, without tangible economic and legal reforms within the PRC, we fear these opportunities will be more limited in the future and seriously jeopardize the bilateral commercial relations between our nations.

Mr. President, we 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. However, the actions by China outlined in this letter risk seriously jeopardizing 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.

It is our sincere hope that during the upcoming summit with President Xi, you will show such leadership and deliver a message that China must play by international rules or face the consequences. 

We look forward to your timely consideration and timely response to this letter.                                                                                        


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.


354 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

(202) 224-5941