Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Jan. 27 called on the Biden administration to continue building a “whole-of-government” approach to countering the Chinese regime.
McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor, implored the new government to build upon the Trump administration’s tough-on-China approach, a posture that has bipartisan support.
The Trump administration “helped bring about a long-overdue American awakening to the reality that we are in a strategic competition with the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” he said.
“These challenges demand fast and serious action from the U.S. and our friends,” he added.
The senator said the Biden administration “must keep working with Congress to continue building a whole-of-government, whole-of-economy approach to checking China.”
The Senate in the last week has confirmed Biden’s picks for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, and Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, all of whom issued tough rhetoric on China in their confirmation hearings. Blinken said that while he agreed with Trump’s tougher approach to China, the United States should work more with allies to confront the regime.
McConnell urged Blinken to “keep clarifying the China threat to our allies and European partners; to focus on contesting their growing influence in Africa and the Middle East; and to hold Beijing accountable for its unacceptable repression in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong and hostility toward Taiwan.”
Under the Trump administration, the state department launched a range of initiatives to convince allies of the threats posed by the regime and Chinese technology. This included the “Clean Network” campaign to boot Huawei and other Chinese telcos from 5G networks around the world. So far, about 60 countries, representing more than two-thirds of the world’s economy, and 200 telecom companies have joined the alliance.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also slapped sanctions on many Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong officials over rights abuses in the region of Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
To defend against Chinese military aggression, McConnell said Austin should “keep focus on modernizing our forces; deterring Chinese threats, from the Indo-Pacific to space and cyberspace; sustaining robust defense funding; and investing in defense partnerships across the world.”
“We need Secretary Yellen to keep focused on the coercive manipulation the PRC uses to ensnare the developing world in its orbit,” McConnell said, apparently referring to the regime’s Belt and Road Initiative that pours billions of dollars in loans into low-income countries to help build massive infrastructure projects. The project has been criticized as “debt-trap diplomacy” aimed at saddling countries with unsustainable debt levels while furthering the regime’s influence in these areas.