WASHINGTON—At a Foreign Relations Committee nominations hearing today, the nominee to serve as Deputy Secretary of State committed to personally delivering a comprehensive China strategy to U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT)—legislation he secured into law as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022.
Specifically, Romney’s legislation requires the United States to develop a grand strategy to address the new era of geostrategic and geoeconomic competition with China. In addition to requiring the President to develop and submit the strategy to Congress, the law authorizes him to convene an advisory board of outside experts from the private sector, academia, and think tanks to analyze, challenge, and make recommendations for the strategy.
A transcript of their exchange can be found below, and video can be found here.
Senator Romney: Mr. Campbell, thank you for your willingness to continue to serve our country in an admirable way—in an important way. I think we would agree that China intends to replace us, probably by mid-century, as the economic, military, and geopolitical leader of the world, and they’re on a pretty good track so far. They’ve convinced a lot of nations that used to be free nations to side with them relative to Taiwan. They’ve monopolized a number of industries. They’ve been able to achieve dominance of key raw materials for the industries of the future. They have infiltrated various governments around the world. They’ve been extraordinarily successful in their efforts so far.
At the same time, they have vulnerabilities, and their demographic reality is a real vulnerability. The debt overhang that exists in China is a real vulnerability. It is an area which is, if you will, absolutely primed for us having a very effective strategy to figure out how it is they’re so successful in accomplishing certain things around the world. They’ve gone into Latin America, to Africa, even to the Caribbean. They’re all around us. And they say, of course, that they’re worried about us, you know, constraining them and containing them. Well, it’s like, “that’s so laughable!” They’re all over the world. They’re far more all over the world even than we are in many respects. They also say they want to respect the sovereignty of other nations, that they’re not in favor of one nation interfering with another. At the same time, they smile on their biggest ally, Russia, invading their neighbor, Ukraine.
So, we can’t take them at their word. The need for a comprehensive strategy, not necessarily in the public, but one behind the scenes, has never been greater. And I appreciate your working with members of my staff and others to develop that strategy. But, Senator Menendez and I drafted a bill, as you know, to have that strategy developed and to be provided to this Committee by…July 9th of this year. It’s later than that now. We haven’t received it. I know you’re working to try and make that happen. What’s the holdup and when will we receive it?
The Honorable Kurt Campbell: First of all, let me just, [that’s] unbelievably graciously put. I probably deserve worse. I’m committed to get you both the unclassified and classified versions of this, and I will deliver it to you personally. I, too, have been a little bit frustrated. You know, you don’t understand every element of government. This is something that should be shared and done in consultation.
I will tell you, we have that strategy. We have followed it. And look, I think you paint a picture of challenges that we face, but it is incredibly important for us not to be completely discouraged and to have confidence in what we are doing. And I will just give you the other side of that ledger if I can, Senator, just very quickly. I think we’ve made incredible investments in technologies—the key technologies of the 21st century. We understand that this is going to be the high ground where the battle for supremacy will be fought. We’re investing in them. We’re trying to restrict the most critical of those technologies from going to China. I think that has been largely a success, bipartisan success—Senator Young leading the way. Number one. Number two—look, I would stack up what we’ve done with allies and partners with anyone. And look at the countries that in the past that had really flirted with a different kind of relationship with China who have made fundamental decisions to be with us. Great Britain and Australia. AUKUS is for a significant inspirational, powerful program not just on submarines but on technology for the future. India, a key country for the 21st century, working much more closely with us, Japan and South Korea, other countries in Southeast Asia. And what we’ve done in Europe, all of whom I think some of the blinders have come off about what they’re dealing with, with respect to China, we have huge challenges in the global South, as you rightly point out.
We have begun to diversify in terms of supply chains and critical minerals. But, we are doing better in the contest than I think sometimes we tell ourselves. And I will say, just, Senator, you understand the history of the region of the Indo-Pacific. The one theme that has permeated discussions for 50 years in Asia was the idea of American decline. People thought we were in decline during the Korean War. They thought we would never recover from the Vietnam War. Reagan brought us back. Cold War, people thought that Japan was the ultimate victor. Each time, there is something about the American character—our inventiveness, our ability to reinvent ourselves—that have propelled us forward. I have confidence that we can do that again. China believes that we are in hurdling decline. It is critical that we prove otherwise.