Biggest failure of American foreign policy in 40 years is how we’ve dealt with China, says National Security Advisor

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National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has talked to the press on September 4 about the challenges from the Chinese Communist Party and its interference in the US presidential election.

The following are O’brien’s remarks at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room:

Question: Thanks, Ambassador O’Brien. I wanted to follow with a couple on China. I’m wondering what specifically you’re seeing from China that makes you believe that they have a bigger or harder-working electoral interference operation than Russia or other countries.

And then based on that, or, you know, the litany of other concerns that you’ve described about China, if you could kind of tell us the status of efforts by the administration to either go after Chinese firms or imports or diplomatic issues with China.

AMBASSADOR O’BRIEN: Yeah, so let me talk about the China situation overall. So probably the biggest failure of American foreign policy over the past 40 years is how we’ve dealt with China.

There was this mantra that somehow, as China became richer, as we turned a blind eye to Chinese malign activity — whether it’s stealing our IP or engaging in unfair trade practices or bullying its neighbors — if we just turned — bullying its own people at Tiananmen Square — if we would turn the other cheek, turn a blind eye, that China would become richer as it became more — as it became richer and the middle class in China grew, they’d become more like us. And we always want to — you know, we want to believe that everyone wants to become like us, that they’ll become more Western, more democratic.

In fact, all the opposite occurred: China’s human rights violations have gotten worse and worse over the years, whether it’s the Uighurs or religious minorities, or their neighbors; the people who enjoyed democracy in Hong Kong until just recently; the bullying of Taiwan.

So we’ve seen very malign Chinese activity. The theft of intellectual property has gotten so bad that Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, recently called it the “greatest wealth transfer in human history” — was a theft by the Chinese of our intellectual property.

Now, that’s not just an abstract concept. Okay? That’s sweat equity; that’s American innovators. That’s people that are putting their — put their whole life into dreams; people who have invented things in their garages; people who built companies, who’ve done everything they can to create an idea and turn an idea into reality.

And then what happens? That idea gets stolen by China. And it’s not just that they’ve lost the economic value of their innovation or of their — of their method of doing business. The Chinese have taken it, sometimes using slave labor but using cheaper labor; often manufacture products that compete at a lower price, and then put the original person who invented the technology out of business. And then kill the industry for the United States, and whole industries go to China; whole manufacturing plants go to China.

I mean, it’s been really astounding. Chris Wray said that — also said that the FBI is opening a new espionage case against the Chinese every 10 hours. The scope of Chinese activity against the United States is relentless. It’s — we’ve never seen anything like it. There was nothing like this in the Cold War with the Soviets.

So this president, President Trump, stood up to the Chinese for the first time in 40 years. He put tariffs on the Chinese. We had a trade — a phase one trade deal that partially addressed some of the unfair trade practices and was a huge step in the right direction. But as soon as that was signed, we ended up with the — the President calls it the “China plague” or the COVID outbreak here, which made that, you know, somewhat irrelevant because of the tremendous losses we suffered, again, because the Chinese wouldn’t share the virus samples with us early, wouldn’t let CDC doctors come into China early to investigate, wouldn’t let WHO doctors come into China to investigate, wouldn’t restrict travel from China to overseas, especially to Europe, when they were restricting travel within China.

So — so again, you know, it, you know —

Question: But specifically on the election.

AMBASSADOR O’BRIEN: You know — well, look, when it comes to the election, everything that they’re doing across the board, whether it’s political influence through the Confucius Institutes; whether it’s them trying to influence business leaders by saying, “If you don’t support us in the U.S., your companies won’t have opportunities in China, and convey that to your governors and convey that to your political leaders”; that the massive — and I’m not going to go into all the intelligence, but the massive activities of the Chinese in the cyber realm, it’s really an extraordinary thing that we’re facing.

And again, this is the first President that stood up to the Chinese. I hope he’s not going to be the last President who stands up to the Chinese.

And as difficult as the problem is, let me tell you, I’m confident in the United States of America. I believe, at the end of the day, we’re going to prevail. We’ve got a “peace through strength” foreign policy, finally, that we’ve been missing for some time now. We’re investing in our defense. We’re taking strong action on the diplomatic front against the Chinese. We’re taking strong action on the trade front. We’re protecting our intellectual property.

We’re not going to — we’ve called out the Communist Chinese Party. We’re taking strong action and have massive sanctions on the Chinese for the first time because of their treatment of the Uighurs or their treatment of democrats in Hong Kong.

I think, at the end of the day, our allies are going to follow us, which you’ve seen happening with 5G and Huawei; and we’re seeing many, many countries, including our closest allies, turning away from the Chinese, turning away from Huawei and going with trusted providers on 5G. So I think, at the end of the day, America is going to prevail. I think President Trump’s vision of free markets and free women and free men is an attractive message, not just to our allies, but to even people within China.

So, you know, I’m confident in the future, but I’ll tell you, this is a challenge. It’s a heck of a challenge. But I’m convinced that, under President Trump’s leadership, the American people are up to the challenge.

source: the White House press statements

Press Briefing by Ambassador O’Brien, Ambassador Grenell, Senior Advisor Kushner, and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

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