WASHINGTON—In an exchange with the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) highlighted the threats China poses to freedom around the world and America’s responsibility to develop a strategy to confront them. Key excerpts of Romney’s exchange with Mr. Stilwell can be found below.
Senator Romney: It is my view that the greatest threat to freedom, for America and for the world, is a China that decides to try to impose its authoritarian system on the world—that it is our highest priority to dissuade China from that course, or to confront them if necessary to prevent them from taking that course. Do you agree with that?
Mr. Stilwell: Senator, absolutely.
Romney: I would note that as the leader of the free world, that burden falls on us to bring the free world together to make sure we’re able to dissuade China from taking that path and threatening our freedom and the freedom of the world. They had developed quite clearly a strategy. You mentioned the difference between strategy and policy. I worked many years at a strategy consulting firm helping companies think about strategy, and I look at what they’ve done, and I say, ‘wow,’ this is one of the most brilliant strategies I’ve ever seen. The Belt and Road (BRI) means that they’re going to have access to key raw materials. They’re able to also send their products out. Predatory pricing and industrial policies allow their industries to take over industries around the world on an unfair basis, basically managing and brainwashing their own citizens. And then of course an influence campaign around the world with things like the Confucius Institutes here in our country, where we’re trying to tell school children a whole different message about authoritarianism and China. It is my hope that we as a nation will finally develop a true strategy as it relates to this highest priority in preserving our freedom. But one question on my mind is, what would the key elements be of such a strategy? What are our key advantages? From your perspective, what do we have to have as a central part of a strategy to dissuade China from imposing its will on the world or to confront them when they do? Do you have a sense of that, of things that you think make sense to be part of that?
Stilwell: Senator, absolutely. I really appreciate that question. The Indo-Pacific Strategy addresses those terms, those things. The obvious one is security. I mean, if you don’t have stable air and maritime lanes, your ability to trade is affected. China looks to change that equation, especially in the South China Sea. So the security leg of strategy is important, but it’s also the one we know best. The second one is economics, looking at things like infrastructure, energy, digital economy—these things that address exactly what you mentioned in One Belt One Road, and as I mentioned before, governance. It’s about transparency. The difference between open democratic systems and the system that you mentioned is the fact that one is very opaque, and they really don’t want you to see what’s going on in the background.