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“We Were Wrong” Congressman says the United States needs to rethink its approach to relations with China

November 13, 2023

In a speech delivered at Johns Hopkins SAIS on November 13, 2023, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) outlined his vision for how the United States will win the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by being clear-eyed about the challenges involved and approaching the issue from a position of strength and confidence.

He also stressed the need for Americans to draw a clear distinction between the CCP and the Chinese people on this issue. “Even as we compete with the CCP, we must do everything to stand with the Chinese American community and the Asian American community against all forms of anti-Asian bigotry, prejudice and hatred.”

Krishnamoorthi, who serves as ranking member of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, argued that outdated assumptions about China’s ruling party have led to recent policy failures.

Regardless of the relationship between the CCP and the U.S. government, those people-to-people ties… are incredibly important; we want them to flourish.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi
He recalled America’s longstanding relationship with the Chinese people and how the United States left the door open for this partnership even after the CCP took power in 1949. This was the approach behind the U.S. decision to restore diplomatic ties in 1979 and to subsequently give China full market access by way of a permanent trade relation status. Krishnamoorthi said this was all done to promote the spirit of greater openness and freedom for the people of China, but things have not worked out as the United States expected, because the CCP had other plans.

“We were wrong,” he stated. “On diplomacy, we were wrong. While relationships between Americans and the Chinese people flourish, the CCP never intended to partner with us… On the economy, we were wrong. The CCP said they would adopt open market-oriented policies. Instead, they stole billions of dollars of intellectual property, dumped goods in our market and destroyed businesses and jobs… On human rights, we were wrong. Instead of allowing greater openness and freedom for the Chinese people, the CCP built a surveillance state.”

Krishnamoorthi added: “On national security, we were wrong. Rather than peacefully integrating into its neighborhood, the CCP is undertaking a massive military buildup, threatening Taiwan and ramming ships from Philippines and Vietnam sailing lawfully in the South China Sea… We cannot be wrong any longer.”

Krishnamoorthi said the United States must meet this challenge by continuing to attract the best talents from around the world through a robust reform of the immigration system. “We cannot outcompete the CCP unless more of the world’s best and brightest and most hardworking people come to this country and stay here,” he said. He also stressed the need for “upskilling” American workers through enhanced trade and technical education.

He also noted that, even under the challenging circumstances of current relations, the United States must remain open to diplomatic engagement with the Chinese government. “I believe dialogue is invaluable,” he said.

During the discussion that followed, SAIS Dean James Steinberg asked Congressman Krishnamoorthi to expand on the point he made in his speech about the need to maintain the longstanding ties between Chinese citizens and Americans. Citing the significant number of Chinese students at SAIS, as well as the Hopkins-Nanjing Center campus (a joint project with Nanjing University) Steinberg sought his view on what can be done to sustain the people-to-people side of the engagement at a time of difficulty in bilateral relations.

“Regardless of the relationship between the CCP and the U.S. government, those people-to-people ties… are incredibly important; we want them to flourish,” Krishnamoorthi stated.

For the full recording of the speech and the follow-up discussion, watch the video provided below.