Romney Leads Senate Hearing Regarding U.S. Policy on Taiwan

Urges support for Taiwan in face of China, asks Administration to follow through on China strategy required by law

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy led a hearing regarding U.S. policy on Taiwan. Romney argued that it is in the United States’ interest to support Taiwan in the face of China’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

In his exchange with the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink, Romney raised the fact that Congress has still yet to receive from the Administration a comprehensive strategy to counter the China threat, which was required by law to be provided by June 2023—almost one year ago. Romney stressed that the law requires the strategy to be presented to Congress—some classified and unclassified—as opposed to an “in camera” review which Mr. Kritenbrink suggested.

Romney’s opening statement and excerpts of his exchange with Mr. Kritenbrink can be found below. The full video is available here.

Opening Statement:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Consistent with our personal relationship, I agree with virtually everything you said. I have no bones to pick and anything you described, and I’m happy to see our mutual friend, Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink here as well. We have had the chance to meet and speak a number of times.

Some weeks ago, I asked Taiwan’s Representative to the United States what was the single most important thing we could do to convince China that it would be unwise to consider a military action of invasion against Taiwan. And the Representative said it would be to provide funding support for Ukraine and like the Chairman has indicated, I am very pleased that we finally got that done. I think it sends a signal to would-be aggressors around the world of all kinds that we will stand by our commitments and that we honor and respect the rights of Democratic people to retain their freedoms and their vision for their own livelihoods. Unfortunately, we know that, Xi Jinping has stated an intention to unify with Taiwan—potentially including a forceful, measure.

And we see a number of troubling developments that we have to take into account. Of course, he’s building out extraordinary military capabilities—naval, space, rocketry, and other dimensions. He is exerting economic coercion on Taiwan, obviously making numerous, threatening overflights, extending graze on activities, particularly thinking about some of the disinformation that was shared through TikTok, during the most recent presidential elections.

I can tell you that from my reading, that hasn’t had the impact that China may have hoped for, but clearly Taiwan and its ability to retain its freedom is of great interest to us and to other nations around the world. It is our hope that Taiwan can be an aggressive competitor with China and with other nations, even with us, but not to be conquered by China.

And one of the reasons that we are so anxious to help them invest in their own military might, as well as the reason we invest in our military might, is to assure that there’s not temptation on the part of any nation, particularly China, to take aggressive military action against our friends in Taiwan.

Like the Chairman, I’m happy that we’re celebrating the Taiwan Relations Act. It’s not as clear cut as perhaps some would like, but I think it’s good news that we found that this year the U.S. will surpass China as Taiwan’s top export market. Taiwan’scollaboration with semiconductor manufacturers here in the U.S. to help build a resilient semiconductor industry here in the U.S. is also a great note and great importance to us.

And I hope that the people of Taiwan recognize that we are their friends, that we are anxious for them to be able to determine their own course and to chart their lives as they wish, and that we will in all ways honor our friendship and our commitment to one another.


Romney: It’s apparent to everyone that China goes to great lengths to try and convince other countries to sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Why, in your view, do they do that?

Kritenbrink: I think their objective is to try to pressure and coerce, intimidate and isolate Taiwan. And I think they believe that by, picking off, so to speak, Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, they can further those objectives.

Romney: There have been a number of countries over the years that have severed relations with Taiwan, some in the Pacific, in Latin America as well. Are there any that have gone the other way and meaning nations that did not have relations with Taiwan but have now established those relationships?

Kritenbrink: I don’t have those names at my fingertips, but I know some of the countries, including in the Pacific, have flip-flopped over the years…We’ve tried to caution countries…about getting caught up in this larger game, so to speak. We’ve also cautioned countries that many times the promises that the PRC makes when it’s trying to convince a country to flip, many times China does not carry out those promises. And also we also try to highlight: Taiwan is a very capable and valuable partner for countries to have…And I’ve been gratified that even just over the last three years, we’ve seen a pretty significant increase in the number of countries who are willing to stand up and say that they recognize peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is a matter of international concern.

Romney: Yeah, I would anticipate that if we were to look at what China’s strategy is with regards to Taiwan that one small element would be trying to isolate Taiwan diplomatically. This is not a major, perhaps thrust of their strategy vis-a-vis Taiwan, but a part of it and the fact that they’ve been successful in doing that gives me some concern that we don’t have a strategy as effective as theirs in moving things in the other direction. And having more nations establish relations with Taiwan and insisting on them being involved in international bodies and so forth so as to increase the ties that Taiwan would enjoy globally and also make it more likely that, were China to be tempted to carry out some kind of military effort, that they’d recognize the number of nations that would find that offensive and would be likely to respond in an aggressive way, not necessarily militarily, but economically or diplomatically. So, I would think it would be an important part of our nation’s strategy vis-à-vis Taiwan. Can you give me a sense, what are the key parameters, do you believe, of what China is doing to try to pull Taiwan into its orbit or ultimately, as XI Jinping has indicated, to actually create a single nation with Taiwan as part of the PRC?

Kritenbrink: I think it’s clear that they’re building other means to try to coerce and intimidate Taiwan, including their military capabilities, the exercise of those capabilities, their attempts to, as, the Chairman pointed out, to undermine, longstanding norms like the center line, and I think if they were, successful, they would like to, through disinformation and these other intimidation tactics and gray zone tactics, they would like to discourage the people of Taiwan into somehow thinking that unification is inevitable. I think that’s as candid as I can be about how we see their strategy. Our strategy, as I’ve tried to lay out, is on the opposite side of that.

Senator Romney: One dimension of their strategy has to be economic, with regards to Taiwan…Are they building closer relations with Taiwan, particularly in the area of semiconductors, or others? Are there—I mean, they’ve made a massive investment. We’re talking about, right now, our CHIPS Act, and what we’re finally doing, but China has basically had a CHIPS Act in place for almost a decade, spending over $50 billion to establish a competitive semiconductor capacity which has not yet yielded the result they’d looked for. What is China doing on the economic front, to try and either grow ties with Taiwan or to isolate it economically?

Mr. Kritenbrink: I agree that they’ve stated explicitly through…Made in China strategies and other documents that they would like to dominate the key sectors, especially the high-tech sectors, of the 21st century economy. So, I think that’s their broader goal. When it comes to Taiwan, I think it’s been a complex approach and somewhat of a mixed message. I think on the one hand, the economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland actually remain quite robust. But I think that, like many partners around the region, around the world, Taiwan has been working to diversify those economic relationships so that they’re not as subject to the temptation of coercion, the risk of coercion and intimidation.

But, here, too, I think China, has used the coercive tool as well. They took some steps in the run up to the election to curtail some of the economic and trade relationships. There were certain instances where it seemed they were picking sectors that they hoped would have the most positive impact politically in Taiwan, from their perspective. And they’ve also threatened to curtail some of the previous trade agreements with Taiwan.

Senator Romney:  As you know, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and myself developed the legislation, had it passed, that calls upon the State Department to provide to Congress, an outline of our China strategy. And some of that would be for Congress as a whole and in public, some would probably be classified. You’ve indicated we’re about to get that. Is that right? 

Mr. Kritenbrink: Yes, Senator, I was informed that, again, consistent with section 6511 of the FY22 NDAA, the Administration has made available for in camera review the Administration’s China strategy. My understanding is we’re in touch with your team to arrange an opportunity for you to review the strategy at your convenience. We’re grateful for your leadership and support on this issue, and, I think as an entire whole of government, we look forward to continuing to partner with you on our strategy.

Senator Romney: I would note I would note that the law that was passed called for this to be presented to Congress, some in public and then some classified, as opposed to just an in camera review, so I would expect that the State Department would follow the law, as opposed to a different course.

Separately, it is the impression of a number of people…that if you go around Africa, everywhere you turn, there’s China. If you go around Latin America, there’s China. If you go even in the Caribbean, there’s China. That they’re everywhere. A part of that is Belt and Road. Part of it has been to secure the raw materials for the economy of the future, and they seem to have done that as we’ve been asleep at the switch…Have they made inroads in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean? And are we woefully behind in those areas? 

Mr. Kritenbrink: Well, the first part of your statement: does China have a global presence in many of these regions? Absolutely, especially economically. Are we woefully behind? No, I would absolutely say we are not. I would say, Mr. Ranking Member, again, our approach, whether it’s in the Indo-Pacific or Africa, Latin America or elsewhere, we’re focused first and foremost on what we stand for, our affirmative strategy in each of these regions.

Senator Romney: I would say based on my own limited travels, but also in sounding the opinion of diplomats here and others that China has established a much stronger, presence in those nations than they had just a few years ago, in many cases eclipsing our own. I would note that we spend billions of dollars, if you will, helping people with charitable endeavors, development opportunities, showing them what we stand for. China tends to do what’s in their self-interest—establishing mines and rail lines and ports that will strengthen their economies, strengthen their position on the global stage.

I think we need to go from just doing things that are humanitarian and showing what we stand for, to instead doing things that are actually in our best interest and promote our national security, and the strength of our own economy. And that we’re pretending like we’re in a world where we don’t have a competitor, and we do…And I’m thinking about the Development Finance Corp, and I know it’s designed to deal with the development needs of poor countries and other countries that have humanitarian crises and so forth, but I would note China invests in things that are going to help China down the road. They try and do good in many respects, but more importantly, they try and do what’s in China’s interests and would suggest that we do the same with the DFC.