My Plan for Dealing with China in the 21st Century

Below, please find the text of Marco’s policy speech, as prepared for delivery, in Charleston, South Carolina today.

Today I’d like to discuss China’s rise in global affairs and what I’ll do as president to ensure it doesn’t undermine American interests. If there were any doubts about the importance of this topic, the financial events of the past week put them to rest.

On Monday, due in large part to a crash in China’s stock market, our own markets suffered their worst day in four years. Insecurity and anxiety about the future — already high for America’s families — climbed even higher.

It was a jarring illustration of how our economy has changed. In the 21st century, what happens across the world can impact American families as much as what happens across town. The affairs of foreign nations are increasingly our business, whether we like it or not, and this is especially true of China.

In this new century, China presents both opportunities and challenges for our people.

Trade with its growing middle class has opened our businesses to hundreds of millions of new customers. South Carolina can attest to this. In 2013, China consumed $4.2 billion of goods and services produced in this state — more than any other country. That supports thousands of South Carolina jobs. And because of good policies from your governor, textile jobs once taken by China are now returning.

But as we’ve found this week, the negative effects of China’s economic meddling are severe. The Chinese government’s efforts to devalue its currency and rig global trade are a rising threat to our economic interests.

China is also a growing danger to our national security. Earlier this year, it was behind the largest cyber-attack ever carried out against the United States. Its current ruler, Xi Jinping, is trying to convince his country’s 1.3 billion people that the way to reestablish Chinese greatness is to undermine the United States and enhance China’s influence at our expense.

To this end, he is asserting control over the East and South China Seas, through which more than half of global commerce passes each day. This is Beijing’s way of gaining leverage over the world. It has unilaterally declared an “air defense identification zone” over international waters and the Senkaku Islands, which are the territory of our ally Japan. In the South China Sea, Beijing has dispatched ships and planes, moved oilrigs, and even constructed artificial islands in an attempt to strengthen its position militarily.

Under Xi Jinping’s rule, China has intensified its campaign to push America out of Asia, denouncing our long-standing alliances with other democracies like Japan and the Philippines, developing weapons that threaten our bases and naval assets, and declaring that Asian affairs should be left to “the people of Asia.” China aims to make it so costly and difficult for America to get involved in the region that we won’t bother.

In short, China is doing everything it can to make the 21st century a Chinese Century.

But if you want to know what a Chinese Century would look like for the world, look no further than how the government treats its own people. In just the last year, it has rounded up human rights advocates and thrown them in prison, torn down churches and oppressed Christians, forced parents to get abortions and sterilizations, detained political dissidents without trial or legal recourse, undermined the autonomy of Hong Kong, and tightened controls on the Internet.

This is a disgrace, and we must stand against it. America holds nothing but goodwill toward the people of China. I believe the moment they finally attain true freedom will fundamentally alter the course of human history, and will benefit the economic and strategic interests of the United States.

Freedom for the people of China must be our goal; but it has not been the goal of President Obama. He has only appeased their oppressive leaders, staying silent in the face of their human rights abuses. He has failed to respond adequately to the unprecedented breaches of our corporate and government computer networks. And he has given our allies reason to doubt our commitment to their security. And the fact that China is growing more assertive by the day suggests that its rulers share the same doubts about American resolve.

President Obama has hoped that being more open to China would make them a more responsible nation. It has not worked. We can no longer succumb to the illusion that more dialogue with China’s current rulers will narrow the gap in values and interests that separates us. That is why, while I do not believe we should cancel Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington next month, I also do not believe we should roll out the red carpet for him. This is an opportunity to speak bluntly to this authoritarian ruler, not to treat him to a state dinner.

It is up to our next president to correct the errors of our current one. This is one of many reasons Hillary Clinton must not become our next president. One of her first actions as Secretary of State was to reassure China’s rulers that cooperation on climate change, of all things, was more important to her than calling Beijing to account for its violations of human rights.

While her tenure as Secretary of State was a disaster, we can be sure she will run on it in the general election. We have to put forward a nominee with the experience and record of judgment necessary to take her to task. Our Party’s nominee must understand the global challenges we face in the 21stcentury.

If I am our party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton will not be able to lecture me on foreign affairs. From Libya to Syria to Ukraine, and yes, to China, I have consistently called for the appropriate courses of action before they were popular.

Asia has been a region of particular interest to me. In the last Congress, I was the Senate Republican responsible for overseeing US policy towards Asia. And last year, I visited multiple allies in East Asia to highlight the importance of our partnerships.

Our nominee must have a plan to correct U.S.-China relations, and that is what I will offer today.

As president, my approach toward China will adhere closely to the three principles of my foreign policy that I outlined at the beginning of this campaign. My goals will be to restore our national security and defend our strategic interests, protect our economic wellbeing, and advance the cause of freedom and human rights.

The first goal will require restoring American Strength to ensure the United States remains a Pacific power.

While China has increased its defense spending by another 10% this year, the Obama administration has cut defense spending by nearly a trillion dollars over a decade. Our Navy is now smaller than at any time since before World War I, our Army is headed for pre-World War II levels, and our Air Force has the smallest and oldest combat force in its history. And make no mistake, numbers matter. Our planes and ships cannot be in two places at once. If elected, I will end defense sequestration and restore the Pentagon’s budget to its appropriate level.

Doing so will allow us to neutralize the threat posed by China’s rapidly growing forces and capabilities. We’ll ensure that our carrier fleet is sufficient to support forward deployment of a second carrier to the Pacific. We’ll build Virginia-class submarines at a rate of two per year, construct new long-range precision strike systems, protect our satellites and space capabilities from attack, and we’ll deploy advanced missile defense systems to where our men and women are stationed throughout the region.

Restoring our military strength in Asia will also require strengthening our alliances. Our treaty allies and partners depend on the weight of their friendship with America to keep China off their doorstep.

When I am president, instead of inviting China to military exercises, we will conduct joint freedom of navigation patrols with our partners in East and Southeast Asia to challenge any attempts to close off international waters or airspace. We will seek enhanced access across the region and deploy additional air and naval assets to contested areas. We will confront Chinese propaganda in Asia by highlighting U.S. resolve and the flimsiness of China’s territorial claims. And if China continues to use military force to advance its illegitimate claims, I will not hesitate to take action.

We will also promote collaboration between our allies and partners. America cannot and need not bear the full burden of counterbalancing China’s power. Enhanced coordination between Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Mongolia, among others, serves our interests. Promoting democracy around China is an important way to promote democracy within China. Taiwan, for instance, provides a powerful model for how traditional Chinese culture can coexist with democracy.

My second goal in relation to China is of particular relevance this week, and that is protecting the American economy. Until recently, China has experienced impressive economic growth by copying parts of the capitalist economic model and enjoying the stability afforded by U.S. power. At the same time, it has damaged other economies, including our own, by bending and breaking the rules of international trade to achieve its own ends. It has subsidized exports, devalued currency, restricted imports, and stolen technology on a massive scale.

As President, I would respond to China’s economic misconduct not through aggressive retaliation, which would hurt us as much as them, but by reinforcing our insistence on free markets and free trade. This means immediately moving forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements that strengthen strategic ties with our partners in Asia.We will not build exclusionary trading blocs, but nor will we allow China to reap the full benefits of American-led commerce unless it fundamentally changes its attitudes and its policies.

In the 21st century, economic security and national security depend on cyber security. No longer will China hack our corporate or government servers with ease and without consequence. I will fortify our cyber defenses. I will work with other nations to pressure China to halt its use of commercial espionage as a tool of statecraft. And I will coordinate international efforts to identify and punish any Chinese nationals who violate this.

In addition, we will impose sanctions and other penalties on Chinese companies that can be shown to have profited from pirating our software or movies or music or any other intellectual property. We also must restrict Beijing’s access to strategically sensitive technologies.

We can no longer afford to enable the growth of Chinese military power in pursuit of short-term economic gain.

Our third goal in relation to China concerns not just what we do, but who we are. We must stand on the side of freedom and human rights, both inside China and on its periphery. It is our moral and strategic imperative.

The Obama administration has had little to say about the absence of political and religious freedom in China, or about the deteriorating human rights situation that has accompanied Xi Jinping’s rise. Systems of government built on repression are like houses built on sand. The fragile social foundations of the Chinese economy are one reason for the crash we saw this week. Helping the Chinese people achieve freedom and democracy is not just our moral duty as a free people — it will have a profound effect on global prosperity and our security.

When I am president, Beijing will not receive a free pass on human rights. I will instruct all U.S. officials meeting with their Chinese counterparts to list political prisoners by name and press for their unconditional release. I will impose visa bans and asset freezes on Chinese officials who violate human rights. I will do all I can to empower Chinese citizens to breach what has been called the Great Firewall of China, and gain access to news and information online about their country and the world.

Finally, I will understand that the presidency is the most visible office in the world, and that it comes with an ability — and a responsibility — to lead by example. The president can send powerful messages through simple actions, such as visiting the underground churches and unofficial houses of worship throughout China to show his support for religious freedom.

And I will send a message to the world before I even take the oath of office. I will invite Chinese dissidents and other freedom fighters around the world to be honored guests at my inauguration. I’ll personally engage religious rights activists and others such as students in Hong Kong, beleaguered lawyers, dissidents on the mainland, and persecuted Tibetan monks and nuns, who, like the American people, value basic human dignity and liberty.

These will one day be the leaders of a democratic China. These are the leaders worthy of a red carpet welcome in Washington, DC. And giving them that honor will set an example to the world.

Let me just close by saying that, despite the challenges we face in regards to China, the opportunities are even greater.

In our international economy, the ability to trade is greater than it has ever been, the ability of students to travel abroad and learn is greater than it has ever been, the ability to innovate through cooperation as well as competition is greater than it has ever been. China and America are the largest economies on earth. If our people are allowed to cooperate on their economic futures, it can only change the world for the better.

Next Wednesday presents us an important chance to reflect on that fact. It is the 70th anniversary of the allied victory in the Pacific, which effectively ended World War II. Since then, look what economic cooperation has brought millions of people in the Asia Pacific region — from South Korea to Japan and even many parts of China — who just decades ago lived in poverty and despair, but now live in the middle class, and whose children have an opportunity to live an even better life.

That’s an extraordinary achievement, but one that would have been impossible without the stability American leadership has offered the region since World War II, through freedom of the seas, established international norms, and the military power to back them up.

The American Century showed us what can happen when freedom overtakes oppression, when democracy overtakes totalitarianism, when economic opportunity overtakes a stifling authoritarian economy. We cannot walk away from everything we have achieved in that regard.

And we must not overlook the fundamental truth about America’s relationship with China: What is at stake is nothing less than the type of world we will leave our children and grandchildren. In the world we leave behind, what nation will be the dominant example for the world? A country like modern China, or a country like ours?

That’s what’s at stake in the years ahead, starting with this election. I know we will make the right choice.

Thank you.