Romney Chides Administration: Three Words Do Not Make an Effective China Strategy

Administration nearly a year late in delivering Congressionally-mandated China strategy

WASHINGTON—At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) chided the Administration on its failure to deliver to Congress a comprehensive strategy to counter the China threat, which was required by law to be provided by June 2023—almost one year ago. Senator Romney has repeatedly urged the Administration to complete this strategy amidst the increasing threat posed by the rise of China. Romney’s legislation requiring the development of this strategy was originally enacted as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022.

The Senator’s exchange with Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink can be found below and video is available here.

Senator Romney: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You know, I don’t watch as closely as I’m sure you do to see just what China is doing, but I must admit, it strikes me that they have a very comprehensive plan to establish global leadership and to replace us—whether that’s in international institutions where they insinuate themselves into people in leadership, whether it’s the movement away from democracy generally and the growth in autocracy. Freedom House indicates that trend continued again this year. They dominate certain raw materials that are the raw materials of the future—whether its nickel or magnesium or rare earths and so forth. They either dominate the mining of those things or the processing of them. They put in place the rail lines to get the raw materials to their ports. They own the ports to get the products to their market.

Of course, then they have TikTok, which allows them to gather data on the American people and to provide propaganda, as they did in the Taiwan election, with the TikTok algorithm there. They, of course, likewise have Huawei. I mean, you look through the things they’ve done. They dominate the—I shouldn’t say dominate. They lead in a number of the new technologies and businesses, whether it’s electric vehicles or solar panels. They’ve invested in hypersonics, which allow them potentially to threaten our fleet. I mean, you look at the things they do and it’s a comprehensive plan and appears to be a very effective strategy. If we have a strategy to counter China, it’s not working.

So, two years ago or longer, the Chairman of this Committee and I drafted legislation requiring the State Department to gather, internally and with external input, experts with different points of view to create options and to develop a China strategy. We included that in legislation that was passed. It was due to be provided to this committee and to the Congress in June of [2023], so it’s obviously late. Now, call me old fashioned. I thought that when we passed a law and required the State Department to do something, that they would do it. And the State Department has not, or someone has not, and I don’t understand why. Now I can understand people say, “hey, we’re late, we’ll get it to you.” But apparently the work has been done, but this has not been provided. By the way, if it’s classified, let it be classified. But China, from what I can tell, has a game plan and it’s succeeding. We don’t have a game plan I recognize, and whether we do or not, we’re not succeeding. So, Mr. Kritenbrink, why do we not have this in hand, and when will we?

Kritenbrink: Senator, thank you very much. It’s good to see you.

Romney: You knew that was coming, by the way.

Kritenbrink: Thank you, Senator. I’ll say two things. We do have a strategy. We’ve talked about publicly the pillars of that strategy. Invest, align, and compete.

Romney: Three words does not make a strategy. I mean, it’s a wonderful headline. Invest, align, compete. And the Secretary gave a speech of that nature over two years ago, three years ago. And I said, “that’s terrific, that’s exactly right, but we need a comprehensive strategy.” I’ve just described a few things China has in their strategy. We don’t have that. At least, that’s not been provided to this Committee or to the United States Congress or the American people. And we’re losing, if you will, on the strategic battlefield.

Kritenbrink: Senator, I will take this back immediately. I’ve committed to you before to provide this report, and I apologize that that hasn’t been done and I commit to doing so, number one. Number two, the point I would take issue with—our strategy, it is a lot more than those three elements, and I think if you look at the actions that this Administration has taken, investing in our sources of strength at home, and you’re aware of that agenda—the align piece, which I think has been unprecedentedly successful, all the alignment with our allies and partners and friends around the world, in the Indo-Pacific and especially in the Pacific Islands. And in the actions we’ve taken to compete against China—including protecting the sources of our economic strength at home—but in many other domains as well. So, I’m confident that we have a strategy. I’m confident that our China strategy is succeeding, has been successful and is succeeding. But this is an unprecedented challenge. But I commit to being responsive to your request, Senator.