Several influential Republican lawmakers have urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hold China accountable for its egregious human rights abuses, unfair trade practices and aggression towards the US and its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, including its unacceptable and provocative behaviour against India and Taiwan.
The lawmakers wrote a letter to Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, ahead of their upcoming trips to Beijing.
Blinken heads to China on Sunday. Yellen is expected to travel there later in February. "The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has stepped up its aggression in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," the Republican Senators led by Marco Rubio from Florida wrote in the letter on Wednesday.
They urged them to avoid giving the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) a propaganda win and hold the CCP accountable for its egregious human rights abuses, unfair trade practices, leading role in the fentanyl crisis, and aggression towards allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
Signatories to the letter in addition to Rubio are Senators Chuck Grassley, Bill Cassidy, Eric Schmitt, Dan Sullivan, Kevin Cramer, Ted Budd, Rick Scott, Marsha Blackburn, Lindsey Graham, Shelley Moore Capito, Pete Ricketts, John Hoeven, and Bill Hagerty.
According to the Biden administration's National Security Strategy, China is "the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it." Chinese President Xi Jinping stated in his 20th Party Congress report that the CCP has "shown a fighting spirit and a firm determination to never yield to coercive power." "As we have seen recently, General Secretary Xi has engaged in unacceptable and provocative behaviour in the Taiwan Strait and along the Himalayan border with India," the letter said.
"Beyond the Indo-Pacific, the CCP has...intelligence collection outposts in the United States, Japan, and throughout Europe to suppress dissidents and keep tabs on those who Beijing deems a threat. It is evident that General Secretary Xi is determined to use coercion and aggression against the US and our allies and partners to achieve his geopolitical goals. Deterring the CCP from achieving these goals, therefore, must be our top priority," the Senators wrote.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.
According to the Senators, the CCP is the worst offender of human rights.
Both the Biden and Trump administrations have determined that Beijing's actions against Uyghurs, and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) - including its system of mass surveillance and internment, denial of individuals' rights to peacefully practice their religion, and use of forced labour, sexual violence, forced abortion, and forced sterilisation of women - constitute genocide and crimes against humanity.
Moreover, the CCP continues to deny basic human rights to other groups whom the regime deems a threat, such as Tibetans, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners. The CCP is also responsible for fuelling the fentanyl crisis in the US, a scourge which has, and continues, to kill Americans.
"Finally, the CCP continues the horrible practice of wrongfully detaining US citizens and the family members of US citizens, including David Lin, Mark Swidan, Kai Li, Gulshan Abbas, Ekpar Asat, and Zhou Deyong. You must make clear that the United States will not cooperate with a regime that uses hostages as bargaining chips," the letter said.
Beijing, they said, also has a long history of unfair trade practices and industrial espionage, which has caused immense harm to American workers and our economy.
"Over the last several decades, China has engaged in a methodical campaign to steal American intellectual property and research, often redirecting the acquired technologies to military ends. It has repeatedly abused its privileges in the world trading system to exploit our nation's open economy and establish itself a leader in critical industries, including pharmaceuticals, rare-earth minerals, and commodities such as steel," the Senators wrote.
"We are pleased that the US Trade Representative has continued to impose Section 301 tariffs on certain products made in China in response to its "unreasonable" and "discriminatory" non-market practices, and this tool should continue to be used to counter unfair trade policies of China. Meanwhile, much more needs to be done to rebalance our economic relationship with Beijing," wrote the Senators.