U.S. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) called for closer cooperation between the United States and European countries as they confront tough challenges posed by China.
“We must work together to fend off China’s political influence and coercion. Our issue is not with the Chinese people. China is much more than the Communist Party,” said Risch during a discussion held at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Nov. 12.
Risch is also chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“China is a communist authoritarian party state. And unfortunately, the Party’s values and interests dictate how China operates in the international system,” Risch said.
He added that the fundamental difference between China and the United States “is between two systems with different visions of how the world should look.”
In contrast to the free world, in China, “the rights of the individual are subordinate to the interest of the state,” he said, adding that “economic coercion for political ends is a legitimate form of [China’s] statecraft.”
Risch also pointed out that the Chinese regime “advances its own language on human rights” to justify the suppression of its own people, in particular, of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
The U.S. State Department and experts have estimated that more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are currently being detained inside internment camps in Xinjiang, as part of the Chinese regime’s crackdown on “extremism.”
Xinjiang authorities have turned the region into a police state with the population being subject to constant surveillance.
“We already know China is exporting the tools and techniques of its mass surveillance. And we cannot allow those practices to become the norm,” he said. “The United States and Europe must be actively engaged in how new technologies will be used.”
Huawei and Other Threats
Risch also called on European countries not to adopt telecommunications equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei.
The senator applauded Denmark and the Czech Republic for not banning Huawei from its 5G networks, and said he was encouraged that the security community in Germany has also raised concerns about the Chinese firm’s equipment.
In March, Denmark’s biggest telecommunication provider, TDC Group, announced that it would not use Huawei to build its 5G network.
In December last year, Czech cybersecurity agency NUKIB warned network operators and institutions about the security threats posed by Huawei and another Chinese tech giant ZTE, according to Reuters.
But Risch warned that “if enough allies allow Huawei in, I fear intelligent sharing within NATO could be negatively compromised and impacted.” The North Atlantic Treaty Organization comprises 29 North American and European countries.
The Chinese threat to NATO includes China’s access to European ports, including the Dutch port of Rotterdam and the port of Piraeus in Greece, since the U.S. military regularly uses these ports to support “European security,” Risch said.
Chinese state-run shipping firm China Ocean Shipping (COSCO) currently owns Piraeus and has invested in the Rotterdam port.
“The United States and Europe must ask ourselves, how do we ensure the international system maintains its commitment to its values, even in the face of China’s unfair trading, murky and corrupt investment, and political interference to advance its own authoritarian ends?” Risch said.
During the Q&A session, Risch took a question about when the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act will reach the Senate floor. In response, he said, “We want it moved.” Risch is a co-sponsor of the bill. The House version passed unanimously last month.
“The world needs to see that the United States will stand up and say, ‘look, this is wrong. We stand with the people of Hong Kong,’” he concluded.