The U.S. is “not just in a competition” with the Chinese Communist Party, but also “in a conflict,” a leading hawk on China and Republican senator says.
“We’re in a conflict, and I say conflict. People think conflict; they think war. I don’t want there to be a war,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said at an event Tuesday at The Heritage Foundation. “There’s never been a conventional war between two nuclear powers, so no one can tell you where that goes over the long term. Probably not to a very good place.” (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“I don’t want there to be a war, but that doesn’t mean we’re not in a conflict. We are in a conflict,” said Rubio, a senior Republican on the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations. “A geopolitical conflict, a diplomatic conflict, a societal conflict, a technological, a commercial, a trade, at every level and frankly, certainly a military competition when it comes to capabilities.”
So, we are in conflict, and we are in a conflict with a nation state that doesn’t just seek to replace us … doesn’t just seek to be the most powerful nation in the world. They seek to reorient the world.
Rubio has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Chinese Communist Party. President Joe Biden signed into law Rubio’s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in December 2021. Then-President Donald Trump signed into law his Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 in June 2020.
Rubio, along with Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., introduced legislation in December aimed at banning the popular Chinese app TikTok nationwide. Rubio reintroduced the legislation with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine., in February.
During Tuesday’s address, Rubio also discussed “three things that we have to focus on”—starting with ourselves.
“We have to rebuild our society from the ground up by reminding ourselves of things that matter. No. 1, America is something to be proud of. I won’t go into the long litany of it here today, but this is not just ‘wave the flag, apple pie’ stuff. I think America really has an incredible story to tell,” the Florida senator said. “I think it’s an unrivaled story, and it’s one that we should not be shy about telling, and it’s frankly something that we should not be funding schools that say the opposite.”
Rubio also said we have to “reorient our economy.”
“I’m not talking about government owning factories and directing. But I do think this: Yes, we should remain a market economy. Absolutely, 100%,” Rubio said. “But I ask you, what do we do in those instances when … the most efficient outcome, the market outcome, happens to be really bad for America?”
“So, for example, the market says it’s cheaper to make medicine in China. ‘Let’s make medicine in China.’ There’s no doubt that from a market perspective, if I was an AI robot, I would say that is what we should do. But I’m not an AI robot. I’m a U.S. senator from Florida in the United States of America, and I think it’s a really bad idea to depend on China for our medicines, even though it’s cheaper to do it there,” Rubio said.
Lastly, the Florida lawmaker said, “we have to also wake up to the reality that we are in a geopolitical conflict between two very different models of human relations and the world.”
“One model is the China-Russia model, which, frankly, offers the world what the world has had to live under for thousands of years. And the other is the values of freedom and liberty, and the idea that individuals matter and have rights, and it’s messy,” Rubio said. “There’s no doubt about, it’s a huge advantage the authoritarians have. Their societies look more orderly because they will crack heads, and they will jail people right up to the point of revolution.”
“Here, we argue. We argue loudly. We have people take to the streets. It looks chaotic. But in the end, it’s a better model to the extent, obviously, it’s under the rule of law.” he said.
All of this matters because it’s not just, this is not just about ‘OK, who’s going to be the most powerful country in the world?’ We are living in a hinge moment in history that will define the 21st century. When they write the book about the 21st century, it’ll be about this, and it’s hard to perceive it when you’re living through it.
If you go back to other hinge moments in history, the people living at that moment probably didn’t realize it, because you’re busy with everyday life. Things are happening, things are going on … . You don’t realize, ‘I’m living right in the middle of history,’ but we are, and everyday we make decisions that are going to determine what the future looks like.
The Heritage Foundation released an extensive report on Tuesday, “Winning the New Cold War: A Plan for Countering China.”
Samantha Aschieris is a senior news producer for The Daily Signal where this first appeared.