Secretary Blinken Personally Commits to Follow Through on Delivering Romney’s Comprehensive China Strategy

Romney presses Administration to submit classified strategy and unclassified summary to Congress, which is almost one year past-due

WASHINGTON—Today, at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Administration’s continued failure to deliver to Congress a comprehensive strategy to counter China, required by lawafter Romney secured his legislation as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. The Administration is now nearly one year late in delivering the strategy.

Last month, the National Security Council offered to make the strategy available to Senator Romney for an in camera review, but has since failed to follow-up on scheduling it. During their exchange, Secretary Blinken personally committed to Romney that he would assist in scheduling the in camera review. Senator Romney made clear that this in camera review did not fulfill the Administration’s statutory obligations to submit to Congress a classified report and an unclassified summary. Blinken assured Romney he would follow-up.

Text of their exchange can be found below, and video can be found here.

Senator Romney: Mr. Secretary, it’s good to see you and appreciate the extraordinary commitment that you have made over the last years to continue to foster American interests around the world. I’m sure we don’t agree on all the topics, but your devotion to American interests is noteworthy, and certainly something that I applaud.

You know I’m going to want to talk about China. China is a disappointment for those of us who, following the Second World War and then [following] the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were hoping that China would align with us in some way and see more modernization and liberalization and democracy. Unfortunately, it has taken a different turn.

Its ambition is to lead the world—dominate the world militarily, economically, geopolitically. I just, on a piece of paper while we were here, I just wrote down some of the tactics that I see that they’re employing in their grand strategy. In no particular order:    

  • Monopolizing key industries;
  • With TikTok, being able to gather information about Americans;
  • Confucius Institutes to be able to promote their policies in our campuses;
  • Inserting themselves through cyber systems and our critical infrastructure;
  • Buying ports around the world so that they can foster their naval commitments or naval ambition;
  • Putting in place graduate students in our universities, particularly in STEM subjects, to be able to steal technology;
  • The Thousand Scholars program to do the same;
  • Inserting themselves into leadership positions in international organizations;
  • Purchasing farmland around our military installations;
  • Selling drones, Chinese drones, to our police forces;
  • Spy cranes in the seaport, we heard about more recently;
  • Monopolizing key raw materials around the world;
  • Stealing technology from our companies;
  • Spreading dissension in the U.S. and through the West.

I mean, it’s an extraordinary list. And it goes on and on and on.
 That is why the former chairman…of this committee [and I] proposed and actually got signed into law a commitment to put together a group of people—Republican, Democrat, inside government, outside government—to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with China’s ambition.

Part of this legislation said that by last July, the administration would be required to submit to Congress, in a classified form and with an unclassified summary, the results of this strategic development. Now, I’ve been offered the chance to review in camera what has been prepared. I’ve tried to schedule that and that has not been responded to by the Department. But does the State Department intend to submit to the law as signed by the President to actually put in place, and to submit to Congress, the strategy in a classified form?

Secretary Blinken: Senator, first of all, I agree wholeheartedly with the short litany of items that you’ve listed in terms of what China’s doing to try to pursue its military, economic, diplomatic preeminence or dominance in the world. And across the board, we have worked in new and effective ways to deal with that, to push back against that…Now, on the strategy advisory board. First, we applaud everything that you’ve done in your leadership on this for many years. We announced the public strategy back in the spring of ‘22, and you were very gracious in actually being there when I put that out. But, yes, the NSC, I know, and this is what the White House has made available, the classified strategy for in camera review. I’m going to make sure if there’s some problem in scheduling that that happens, and I’ll also go back to them about what more we can do. I know we’ve provided classified briefings to members and to staff on the approach that’s in the strategy. But let me come back to you on making sure that you can see and other members can see the full strategy in the classified setting.

Romney: Well, the law that was passed, called not just for a classified setting which is certainly appropriate, but also to submit to Congress in a public setting what the summary of the of those strategic moves would be. And as I went through that long list of Chinese steps, those are the kinds of things I’m looking for. To say, “look, our strategy is ‘invest, align, and compete’” sounds great. That may be an objective, but the tactical steps of what we’re going to do country by country, industry by industry, port by port, spyware by spyware, etcetera. That’s the kind of detail that really creates a comprehensive strategy that can be effective. And I guess I’m concerned that as we go potentially from one administration to the next—whether that’s in one year or in five years—that we have a strategy that lasts.

You know, following the Second World War, George Kennan and others came together to develop a strategy that was very successful in confronting the Soviet Union. We’re looking to do the same thing here, but we haven’t seen anything of that nature yet. And in the law required that be submitted to Congress in a public setting, but also in a classified setting. And I would ask that you honor that commitment made in law and provide that information both to Congress and to those of us that would want to attend a classified setting.

Blinken: Thank you. And I’ll come back to you on that.