One thing is for sure, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Bill Posey won’t be getting any invites to any holiday parties at the Chinese Embassy this year — especially Rubio, who was sanctioned by the CCP last year. The two Florida Republicans spoke during the final day of the CPA Annual Conference in what was arguably the hottest single topic of the four-day event: China policy post-Trump.
What seems clear in the first three months of the Biden administration is that the Trump approach to China remains largely intact, with a turn towards allies in order to stick them with some of the stresses in taking on an increasingly belligerent Beijing.
In fact, both London and Brussels are now learning what it’s like if you scold Beijing on matters like human rights by sanctioning a handful of bad actors — you get hit with the same, and your businesses get threatened. European fashion brands, for example, are on bended knee at the moment trying to apologize to China.
Rubio started the session off with a long talk in favor of a national strategy to counter China by focusing inward and on reindustrializing the country.
“China is a rich and powerful country and will continue to be so,” he said. “The 21st century will be about the balance between the two countries and unfortunately it is unbalanced. The CCP has undertaken a very strategic effort to exploit our markets, and our freedoms to fuel their rise. They seek not to participate in them but to dominate them and supplant the free world. It is incumbent on us to rebuild our own industries,” he said, adding that we were in an ideological and economic battle with China.
On Friday, he and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced the Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act, legislation that would safeguard American assets from Chinese influence and possession and help to blunt China’s tools of economic aggression. He first introduced the bill back in May 2018.
Congressman Posey said that China policymakers in Beijing have done a good job figuring us out, from playing off Wall Street’s interest in opening new markets and making fast, double-digit gains, to listening to the West’s concerns about climate change and setting up shop to be Europe and America’s Green OPEC.
“They’ve analyzed us pretty well and they play the long game better than we do,” he said, further warning that: “I don’t think we have an established plan to confront China geopolitically.”
One of the big takeaways from today’s conversation is that — once again — we are hearing that members of Congress from both parties agree China is a problem and domestic policies that favor manufacturing and reshoring industries and supply chains are the solutions needed to address that problem. Posey said what many others have been saying in the Trump years as well, which is that we must continue to make economic security a matter of national security.
Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) joined CPA earlier in a keynote address, and after listening to his Republican counterparts, it is easy to see both sides of the aisle are reading the tea leaves more clearly now.
He introduced the PART Act in May which would invest in domestic production of pharmaceuticals. Right now, nearly all of the inputs used to make medication comes from abroad. Final medication, things like pills and vaccines, often come from countries like Ireland and Germany, both of which have a massive trading surplus with the United States thanks to pharma.
He praised Biden’s use of the Defense Production Act, saying it helped Pfizer ramp up production of Covid-19 vaccines in his home state of Michigan.
“Just to give an example of what that Act means, Pfizer was producing around five million vaccines a week and are now producing 13 million doses a week because they were able to buy new pieces of equipment to increase their production,” he said.
Like Rubio and Posey, Peters said that his office was “always open” to work with CPA to make sure that “our workers can get great paying jobs and we can continue to advance America’s middle class.”