WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) this morning participated in the fifth hearing of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which focused on the Biden Administration’s strategy toward the People’s Republic of China (PRC) across military, diplomatic, and economic elements of national power.
Testimony was provided by three senior administration officials: the Hon. Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs; the Hon. Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; the Hon. Thea Kendler, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).
VIDEO of Rep. Torres’s five minutes of questioning can be found here.
VIDEO of the full hearing can be found here.
A RUSH TRANSCRIPT of Rep. Torres’s remarks and questioning is below, as delivered:
REP. RITCHIE TORRES: Thank you. You know, I have prepared questions, but I actually might want to follow up on the colloquy that Undersecretary Quinten Brink had with the chairman. The chairman asked you exactly how are the actions of the administration unprecedented and I might want to take a crack at answering that question. It seems to me that the unprecedented nature of the administration’s actions should be seen not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. It should be seen to be seen holistically. And when you consider the historic export controls on advance semiconductors, which are the most critical of critical technologies, which will have implications far beyond semiconductors, implications for AI and quantum computing, and just about every form of emerging technology, when you consider the historic security alliance between the United States and Australia, in which were equipping Australia, with nuclear submarines, when you consider the expansion of military bases in the Philippines and the reproach ma between Japan and South Korea and the historic remilitarization of Japan, a developed not seen since World War Two, Japan’s defense budget has gone from 1% to 2%. It seems to me the sum-total of all of those actions, especially in the backyard of China, would seem to exceed anything that any administration has previously done to deter China, and China does not perceive these actions as weakness. It perceives these actions as containment. So, is that a fair description of the unprecedented approach with the administration has taken?
THE HON. DANIEL KRITENBRINK, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs: Congressman, I agree with you a 100%.
REP. TORRES: And I also want to examine the notion that diplomacy is practiced by the Biden Administration is a form of weakness. It seems to me there ought to be a communicative relationship between the two leading superpowers in the world. Even during the peak of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, there was channel of crisis communication between the United States and the Soviet Union. You know, my concern is that a lack of communication could mean that we’re one incident away, one miscalculation away from a catastrophic outbreak of war. Is that a fair assessment of the need for diplomacy between the two leading superpowers in the world?
MR. KRITENBRINK: Absolutely. We believe that we’re strong. We’re confident. We’re also responsible, and
that’s why we’re pursuing those communication channels.
REP. TORRES: And I want to examine the notion that the delay in the controls, the investment controls, is also somehow a function of weakness. You know, it seems to me that, you know, getting these controls right is not an exact science. I mean, we have to figure out how do we limit China’s competitiveness without undermining our own competitiveness, right. We want to impose controls on China, but not provoke a response that so retaliatory, that it does us more harm than good. So that to me is not about weakness. That’s about figuring out the right balancing act. Is that a fair description of what’s happening within the administration?
MR. KRITENBRINK: What I would say, Congressman, is we believe we have to be strong enough to be robust. We also have to be very smart and very strategic, and to make sure that we understand precisely the impact of our actions and make sure that they land with maximum effect.
REP. TORRES: You know, I feel like we often use buzzwords to describe our approach to China. Strategic decoupling, de-risking, and I wonder have we gone beyond the buzzwords? Do we have an actual plan for de-risking the relationship with China? Do we have an actual timeline for de-risking because we are dangerously dependent on China for critical minerals, rare Earth elements, clean energy technologies, active pharmaceutical ingredients. Do we have plans for and timelines for de-risking and each of these areas?
MR. KRITENBRINK: I’ll take an initial stab at that Congressman. I can’t say that I have a specific timeline by which we will reach x goal, but absolutely de-risking is our strategy and to the previous comment, there are obviously challenges…
REP. TORRES: But shouldn’t we have, it seems to be we need actual plant that make de-risking a reality, and we need timelines by which we hold ourselves accountable.
MR. KRITENBRINK: We’re absolutely pursuing de-risking. We’ve argued here, there are benefits to trade. There are more than 700,000 American jobs that depend on exports to China. What we can’t continue, though, is vulnerabilities in our supply chains that make us and our partners vulnerable to either disruption or for our partners coercion, and we’re very aggressive with that.
REP. TORRES: And I’ve noticed there’s been a shift in language from strategic decoupling to de-risking. Is there a difference between the two? What’s the difference between the two?
MR. KRITENBRINK: The argument is somehow decoupling or ceasing all of…
REP. TORRES: Not altering. Strategic decoupling and de-risking. That’s a nice sleight of hand, but no.
MR. KRITENBRINK: All I can say is our policies to pursue de-risking, which is again…
REP. TORRES: Is there a difference between the two, yes or no?
MR. KRITENBRINK: I’ll have to take that back and come back to you, Congressman.
REP. MIKE GALLAGHER, Chairman: I’d like a response on that, too.
MR. KRITENBRINK: Yes, sir.
REP. GALLAGHER: That’s a great question.