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Marco Rubio to Biden Officials: ‘I Don’t Think We Can Say Either China or Russia Are More Democratic

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This week at a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing assessing U.S.-China Policy in the Era of Strategic Competition, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., questioned U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner.

A lightly edited transcript is below.

Rubio: “I want to get a little broader, because I think it’s important to understand the strategic vision behind our tactics on everything that we do. If we go back to the late eighties or early nineties, the end of the Cold War, the gamble at the time was if we created this international economic order led by the U.S. and the West, built on this global commitment to free trade, trade and commerce would bind nations together via international interest and economic interest. It would lead to more wealth and prosperity, it would lead to democracy and freedom—basically domestic changes in many countries—and it would ultimately ensure peace.

“The famous saying, it now seems silly, was that ‘no two countries with McDonald’s in them have ever gone to war.’ That’s obviously no longer the case. But the point being is that that was the notion behind it. It was what the then Director General of the WTO called the World Without Walls. Others call it globalization. And basically our foreign policy has been built around that. Even though it’s an economic theory, it basically is what we have built our foreign policy on.

“We admitted China to the World Trade Organization, Russia as well. Wealth certainly increased, particularly in China through its export-driven economy. There was a massive, historic, unprecedented amount of economic growth in that regard. But I don’t think we can say either China or Russia are more democratic. In fact, they’re more autocratic. I don’t think we can say that they’re more peaceful. Russia has invaded Ukraine twice now, and the Chinese are conducting live fire drills off the coast of Taiwan. I think it’s fair to say that gamble failed. And I think the president actually hinted at some of that in his speech the other night.

“We’re now entering a new era. What is that new era? What is our vision now for that world in which the global international order and World Without Walls do not pacify or bind nations, but in fact have now placed us in situations where autocracies, through a joint communique, are openly signaling that we need to reject Western visions of democracy and the like.

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“So before we can talk about what we’re going to do, we have to understand what our strategic vision is. What is the strategic vision of this administration on what the new order of the world is?”

Sherman: “What changed is that Xi Jinping is not the Xi Jinping of the 1990s that we all thought we knew. He is now the pacing challenge. His is the only country that wants to change that rules-based order that can successfully do so and is trying to make that happen.

“It is true that our way of life, our democracy, our belief in our values, and the rules-based international order are being challenged. We have to meet that challenge. And I believe we can meet that challenge. As the President discussed in the State of the Union address, we need to make sure we invest in our own country, which is why the bipartisan support for the CHIPS Act, for the infrastructure bill, what we’re doing in the Inflation Reduction Act, all of the bipartisan efforts that have taken place here in Congress are essential.

“Second, we need to align with our partners and allies. When President Biden began his presidency, he said that it was critical to reinvest in those partnerships and alliances, and it is paying off, because we are putting forward those values. Look at what’s happening in our pushing back against Russia in Ukraine.

“Finally, we have to be ready to compete, which is why we have to look at supply chains and make sure we either can produce things here in our own country or do it with partners or allies that ensure we have the resilience and the redundancy we need to meet this challenge.

“Above all else, it is a challenge about our values. And it is why the President really ended his State of the Union speaking about democracy, what it means, how we have to show what that means here at home and what it means around the world.”


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