Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all our witnesses for joining us today.
I wanted to make some brief remarks broadly about my approach to the U.S.-China relationship—which is the most significant bilateral relationship in the world today.
But first I want to acknowledge the heart-wrenching testimony of Ms. Abbas, who told how her activism has led to her sister’s disappearance by the Chinese authorities and presumed incarceration in one of the Uyghur re-education camps.
My own family feared and suffered from the brutality of a communist regime who were, at that time, sending Vietnamese people to re-education camps. I am deeply sympathetic and moved by your story. Thank you so much for your bravery in speaking out against the atrocities in Xinjiang. It’s an incredibly moving story and I appreciate your testimony today.
As it relates to Chinese policy under the Chinese Communist Party, especially its foreign and defense policy, its trade policy, and its human rights record—I have a lot of concern about their current trajectory.
My concerns have only deepened as a result of the Chinese government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and their campaign of dishonesty and disinformation. That made this pandemic far worse than it had to be.
My concerns have led me to introduce legislation that requires the U.S. government to identify and combat efforts by the CCP to exploit the pandemic to advance its foreign policy objectives to the detriment of the United States and our allies.
At its core, this bilateral relationship is a contest over divergent values and interests. It’s a contest between opposed political and economic systems and different visions for the future of Asia and the world writ large.
In this contest, the United States needs to unapologetically defend its interests and values and prepare for competition across a range of areas.
But even as we move into an era of increased competition, the U.S. also needs to try to preserve areas of cooperation on issues like North Korea, climate change, pandemic preparation and response, and non-proliferation.
We cannot and should not convert a nation of 1.4 billion people into a cartoon villain. China is not going anywhere. We must co-exist as we try to bring China into alignment with—and as a good participant in—the community of nations. We need to do the best we can to try and shape and influence its behavior.
Our greatest chance of success will come from two approaches, one international and one domestic.
First, we have to work with our allies in Europe and Asia to influence China’s behavior, whether that’s abusive trade and investment practices or blatant human rights violations.
Second, Democrats and Republicans need to work together. China policy has become very politicized, even though there is fairly broad agreement on policy. We must remember that we are strongest internationally when we are united domestically and weakest on the global stage when we are divided along partisan lines.
China’s horrific and unacceptable human rights abuses in Xinjiang have rightly caused bipartisan concern. Bipartisan outrage is an important precondition to strong U.S. action to try to change Chinese behavior.
We must be clear-eyed and not play political football with an issue this urgent: the CCP is trying to strip the Uyghur people of their dignity as human beings, subjecting them and other Turkic Muslims to horrific human rights violations, including forced labor.
We cannot sit by as this happens. We must act, using all of the foreign policy tools available to us, including working with allies. Our goal must be to stop these horrific human rights violations from occurring.
Ms. Lehr, given what I just laid out, what does a comprehensive U.S. policy to protect the Uyghurs look like? What different elements of U.S. power should be leveraged? How do we maximize pressure on the CCP while minimizing the harmful repercussions for U.S. security and economic interests?