Sen. Mitt Romney said Friday that the world is snoozing while China grows as a threat to civil rights, free economies and democracy — and that the Trump administration is failing to build a global coalition to compete against it.
The Chinese “made it very clear that their objective is to become the world’s dominant player, to replace the U.S. as the leading nation on the planet, to replace the U.S. economically, militarily and geopolitically,” Romney said in a webcast to the conservative Sutherland Institute.
He added that America and the world have not paid attention to the threat.
“We as a nation and the West have been sitting back not worrying much about China, thinking about them as a developing country without recognizing that they are already the second most powerful economy in the world, that they’re investing as much as we are in military hardware.”
He said China achieving its goal as the world’s superpower should concern people everywhere.
Chinese leaders “believe in [an] authoritarian state where there are not two parties, where there’s not [a] free press, where opposition leaders are jailed or worse,” he said.
Romney said China gives each of its residents a “social score” that goes higher if they do such things as attend pro-government rallies, but decreases if they go to church, talk to dissidents or attend pro-democracy rallies.
“If your point total gets low enough, you can’t get a job,” he said. “This is the way they tend to manage their people…. They represent a dramatic departure from the principles of liberal democracy that have characterized the great nations of the earth.”
Romney complained that China has learned to use capitalism well but doesn’t play by the rules that other nations do.
For example, he said Indonesia produces 80% of the world’s nickel used for stainless steel. He said China bought up Indonesia’s stainless steel companies and nickel suppliers, and then announced it would not export any outside the county. That would amount to an illegal monopoly elsewhere, which is putting stainless steel companies in jeopardy.
“China does this industry after industry and we and the rest of the world sit there with our mouth hanging open, not knowing what to do,” he said. “The answer is … don’t allow China to sell those products in our marketplace.”
But he said China has been spreading billions of dollars in foreign aid worldwide, leading many recipient countries not to complain about Chinese abuses.
“They’re looking at spending a half a trillion dollars in Iran. So, of course, Iran’s going to be a real friend,” Romney said. He adds that similar spending in the Middle East likely has led Islamic countries to be silent about Chinese mistreatment of its Islamic Uighur minority, including beatings and widespread concentration camps.
Meanwhile, Romney complained that Trump is pushing “America First,” and losing friends.
“As America retreats and China pushes forward, why, the nations of the world will line up behind China,” he said.
Romney noted that he complained to State Department officials in a hearing last week that instead of building a global coalition against China, the Trump administration seems to be antagonizing allies.
He said the administration “has been attacking our allies and being abusive in some respects, pulling troops out of Germany in a way that is offensive to Germany. We’re doing the opposite of what we need to be doing, which is coming together with our allies.”
Romney also said that attacks on the vote by mail system in America, as Trump has done, could undermine faith in democracy and help China. He said it is essential for a nation that is the leader of the free world “to show that elections can be held in a free and fair manner.”
Romney urges action now.
“We’ve got to get serious about this and insist that in order for China to continue to have access to the markets of any free nation, they’re going to have to abide by the rules the rest of us abide by,” he said.
“We need the U.S. plus our allies and free nations all over the world to come together to confront China. That’s the task ahead of us.”
He said it’s also time for America to realize it is putting its national security at risk if China becomes the sole or primary source of needed medicines and protective medical supplies.
“We are threatening our national security as well as our health,” he said.