May 11 2021
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Senate’s ongoing efforts to draft a bill to confront the challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party. A lightly edited transcript of Rubio’s remarks on the Senate floor are below.
Rubio: In December 2019, as a new virus was emerging on the opposite side of the world, I spoke at the National Defense University and the title of the speech I gave was “American Industrial Policy and the Rise of China.”
And the reaction from many at the time was skepticism.
From Wall Street investors who frankly saw no problem with our status quo on China.
From think tank experts who mocked my claim at the time that our country relied too much on China economically and our supply chain.
And from tech giants in Silicon Valley who obsessed about access to the Chinese market place.
The problem I pointed to at that time in that speech, almost two years ago, was that for over a quarter-century our economic policies have been mostly about one thing – how American investors and companies can make money by being in business with China.
And in that vein, it didn’t matter if making money meant allowing China to steal our intellectual property.
It didn’t matter if making money meant stable American jobs kept disappearing.
It didn’t matter if making money meant investing in Chinese companies developing technologies to help defeat our country in a future war.
But finally Americans are waking up to what a mistake that was. It was a bipartisan consensus that was flawed.
The 21st century will be defined by the relationship between China and the United States, and frankly, I believe that this is our last chance to make sure it’s a balanced relationship.
But we do not have time for a so-called ‘China Bill’ that is nothing but a collection of half-measures and studies.
Instead, an actually meaningful China bill is what we need. And I believe most members here want it, and I believe we can get to it in a bipartisan way. But to do so, I think it needs to have six things.
If you want a meaningful bill on China, it must touch on six things.
INCREASING DOMESTIC INVESTMENT
First, like I said in December of 2019, we need to identify industries which are critical for our future and spur investment in them.
We have to remember we are not in a strategic competition with foreign Chinese companies; we are in a strategic competition with the world’s largest and second wealthiest nation-state.
There is no way to compete with China by relying only, solely, on private investment – not while the Chinese Communist Party subsidizes and cheats to boost its favored companies.
From industrial corporate giants to the small businesses that make up our supply chain, the private sector is the most important area of this competition.
We can encourage them to step up, just like we did for semiconductors with the CHIPS Act.
Frankly, the way we developed the vaccine, with Operation Warp Speed as an example of a targeted industrial policy where the government partners with the private sector to solve a big problem. You can say whatever you want about America’s response to COVID, but we’ve done vaccines better than everyone else in the world. Not even close. And it’s due to that partnership.
But an essential part of our strategy, as a result, has to be to build a strong foundation through targeted and sustained federal funding for American research and development.
The bipartisan Endless Frontier Act is a nod in that direction.
Right now that bill makes the National Science Foundation the lead agency in directing $100 billion dollars of government investment. The problem is that’s the same agency that time and again has had the research we fund stolen by professors and graduate students who are on the payroll for China.
DARPA and other advanced research agencies within the government have a better record of protecting research, and I believe are a far better choice to administer these investments instead.
COUNTERING CHINA’S MILITARY AGGRESSION
The second thing a real ‘China Bill’ must do is communicate that while we do not seek an armed confrontation with China, we will confront any military aggression.
We will maintain our defense commitments with our allies, and we will win any conflict China starts.
We must never do anything that leads Beijing to doubt our commitment to Taiwan.
And we must never accept the Chinese party's illegitimate claims on the world’s most important shipping lanes in the South and East China Seas.
The Strategic Competition Act we recently passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee is largely silent on this topic, but Chairman Menendez has pledged to work with me to include my South China Seas and East China Sea Sanctions Act in any final bill that we take up here on the floor.
RESTORING FAIR TRADE
The third thing a real “China Bill” must do is fix broken international and domestic trade laws.
The World Trade Organization is failing miserably and it must be reformed.
And China’s flagrant intellectual property theft, industrial espionage, and massive subsidies to Chinese companies can no longer be ignored and they must be addressed.
My Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act would help protect critical industries in America from Chinese influence and possession and recover the lost value of secrets and technologies that they have stolen.
PROTECTING HEALTH CARE
The fourth area of focus must be making sure China doesn’t control our medicines and/or our medical technology and patient data.
Last year’s panic over masks and ventilators was a wake-up call for our medical dependence on Beijing.
From blood thinners to acetaminophen, which is the ingredient in Tylenol, we have allowed China to dominate the pharmaceutical manufacturing market. It is dangerous leverage over America and Americans.
We should be able to make our drugs here. This will not only make us safer; it will create well-paying, stable jobs for American workers.
My Medical Manufacturing, Economic Development, and Sustainability Act would do exactly that and should be included in any real ‘China Bill.’
And as I said in September 2019, we must immediately enact stricter guidelines to make sure that public funding never contributes to Chinese genomics efforts and beats them in that R&D race.
If we allow China to dominate genetic data and that field of medicine, Americans will one day find themselves begging Chinese companies, and even the Chinese Communist Party, for access to life-saving treatments.
SECURING CAPITAL MARKETS
The fifth area a real “China Bill” must address is our capital markets. Our stock market is the most open, liquid, and profitable in the world. And it’s being used by the Chinese Communist Party to fund its military and their companies.
Any meaningful China bill must cut off the tap and prohibit American money from being invested in Communist Chinese military companies.
We need to start requiring more transparency from Wall Street when it comes to investing in China and Chinese government controlled companies.
My American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act needs to be part of the solution. How can we claim to be dealing with Chinese manipulation of our capital markets if we don’t ban Chinese companies exploiting our own stock market from continuing to hurt us?
Beijing long ago figured out how to get rich and powerful Americans to use their influence in American politics.
Allowing Wall Street and Big Finance to enrich themselves by hurting Americans, they make a lot of money in the short term, for those individuals, but it is hurting America in the long run. in the long run. It is national economic suicide.
PREVENTING FORCED LABOR
And the sixth area any real ‘China Bill’ must address is genocide.
Today in China, nationless corporations, cooperating with the Chinese Communist Party, force Uyghur Muslims to make clothing, and shoes, and even solar panels.
Sadly, without knowing it, you may have very well purchased a product made partially or entirely by slave labor in Xinjiang.
These companies partnering with China are complicit in these crimes.
The CCP’s reduced labor costs mean increased profits for these corporations. While they lecture us about social justice in America, these companies are making billions off of slavery in China.
My bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act has almost half the Senate as co-sponsors. We must take it up and pass it out of the Foreign Relations Committee as soon as possible.
Last year, we saw companies – Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, even the U.S. Chamber – lobbying against this bill.
Well, soon we’re going to find out what holds more power in our country – corporations making billions off genocide and slavery, or our basic sense of right and wrong.
The good news is that today, we have finally awoken to the reality of how wrong the old consensus on China was.
But we woke up almost too late. We don’t have time for half-measures.
We must address the dangerous, growing imbalance between America and China comprehensively, decisively, and swiftly.
Or we will live to see a future in which the world’s most powerful nation is a totalitarian, genocidal Communist dictatorship, and our country is relegated to the role of a once great nation in decline.
And no part of our lives will go unaffected in a world like that.
We can see the shadows of it even today.
American movies today are free to portray their own country – here, the United States – as racist, as bigoted, anything they want, but they automatically self-censor their own movies to make sure that it meets China’s standards so they can show those films there.
American corporations threaten states whose democratically elected leaders pass laws they object to. They have every right in our democracy to object. But they will fire American employees and ban messages that risk getting their corporation kicked out of the Chinese market.
And American teenagers are already turning over valuable personal data to the Chinese government on an hourly basis, in exchange for the ability to watch what I will admit are clever videos on TikTok.
And yet this is nothing compared to the world that awaits if we do not take action.
And on this the lessons of history could not be clearer.
Athens emerged from the Second Persian War a great power. But their greatness made them decadent and complacent. They thought nothing would ever change – that they could ignore important problems, they could focus on the trivial.
And so when conflict finally came, initially they used their superior navy to attack Sparta and retreat behind the safety of the city’s walls. And that worked for a little while. And then a plague decimated the city, and more enemies of theirs sensed a weakness and joined the fight against them. And then Athens fell.
Like Rome and Britain later, the end of Athens’ Golden Age came as it always does for a great power – it doesn’t come from the outside in, but always comes from the inside out.
And now, from across the centuries, the lessons of history cry out for our attention.
Our politics are broken, and we fight over the trivial, because we think the past is irrelevant, because we think our place in the world will never change, and we think that the future will always belong to us automatically. And we hide behind our own version of the walls – two vast oceans – believing ultimately we are safe from everything outside.
We should not repeat the errors of the great powers of the past.
And friends, we don’t have time for studies and strategy statements.
We need big changes and decisive action.
We need to prove our democracy can work again, our system of government can function. That it can solve big problems in big ways.
If we succeed, I truly believe, a new American century lies ahead.
If we fail, it is a century of humiliation that awaits us.