Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - "Investigating the Chinese Threat, Part 1: Military and Economic Aggression"

Statement

By:  Howard Berman
Date: March 28, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at today's committee hearing, "Investigating the China Threat, Part 1: Military and Economic Aggression."

The statement follows:

Thank you Madam Chairman for calling this hearing.

It was forty years ago last month that President Nixon undertook his historic trip to China, a visit that changed the course of world events and continues to reverberate today. That trip, and the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, were rooted in a Cold War strategic context, in which the ultimate goal was to prevent Soviet expansionism. In the early years of the U.S.-China relationship, the interactions between our two nations were narrowly focused and took place almost exclusively at the government-to-government level.

Today, four decades later, the bilateral U.S.-China relationship has its own strategic rationale that is global in scope. In addition to the ties between our governments, the two countries have formed deep and wide economic, educational, and cultural connections that resonate not only in Washington and Beijing, but in the farmlands of Iowa and rural China.

At the time of the Nixon visit, China was a poor and isolated nation. Today, after decades of astounding economic growth, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have been lifted out of poverty, and a large middle class is forming. China has become the world's second largest economy and plays an integral role in the international system.

With China's rise as a global power, Chinese influence can be seen and felt all over the world -- from the boardrooms in the world's major financial centers to the backroads of Africa.

There are some in this country who argue that a rising China poses a significant threat to the United States, that China is looking to supplant America's leadership role in the world. And in China, some believe that the United States is in decline, and determined to contain China and curb its rise.

However, many others believe that US cooperation with a rising China is both possible and desireable, and that a bitter and acrimonious rivalry between our two countries would have detrimental impact on global stability. As Henry Kissinger recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, quote "the U.S. China relationship should not be considered a zero-sum game, nor can the emergence of a prosperous and powerful China be assumed in itself to be an American strategic defeat," unquote.

Even if the U.S. and China are able to work together on a positive basis to address regional and global issues -- and I hope that we are -- there will inevitably be disagreements and points of friction in our bilateral relationship. When those arise, the United States must never hesitate to speak out and take action, particularly when American interests and those of our allies and partners are at stake.

This means calling on China to end its discrimination against U.S. companies, stop the theft of U.S. intellectual property, and cease its unfair currency practices. It means shining a spotlight on Beijing's appaling lack of respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It means calling on China to renounce the military option in resolving its ongoing political dispute with Taiwan. And it means demanding that China explain its rapid military buildup, abide by international maritime laws and norms, cooperatewith the international community to end violence in places like Syria and Sudan, and work with the United States and others to solve the North Korean and Iranian nuclear problems.

It remains to be seen how China will ultimately address these issues, and what kind of role Beijing wants to play on the world stage as it continues its economic growth and geopolitical rise. At times, China seeks to be treated like a great power, yet it often ducks the responsibility that comes from being a leading player, or even worse -- as we saw in the Chinese veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria -- blocks the rest of the world from doing the right thing.

China has benefited greatly and achieved prosperity for its citizens from an open international economic system, yet China has engaged in mercantilist behavior, sometimes ignored rules of the global economy, and constructed a playing field for non-Chinese companies in China that is unfair, opaque, and corrupt.

All of this boils down to a choice for China: will it use its growing power and newfound standing in the world solely for its own benefit, or will it pursue a constructive path that strengthens the global order for the benefit of all nations?

I thank the panel of witnesses for being here today and look forward to hearing their views on the future of the U.S.-China relationship.