October 24, 2019
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for that warm welcome. And to
your new chairman, Governor Scott Walker; former Congresswoman Jane Harman;
and to all the members of the board at this historic center; and to all the
fine scholars: It is an honor to be here at the Wilson Center, named after
a President that was a great champion for America leadership and for
freedom on the world stage.
And in that same spirit, allow me to begin this morning by bringing
greetings from another President who’s a champion for freedom here at
home and across the wider world. I bring greetings from the 45th President
of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
I come before you today at the end of a momentous week. In the wake of
Turkish forces invading Syria, thanks to the strong economic and diplomatic
action of the President of the United States, and thanks to the cooperation
by our Turkish and Kurdish allies, Syrian Defense Forces were able to
safely withdraw from the border area that’s currently under Turkish
And yesterday, Turkey’s Ministry of Defense confirmed a permanent
cease-fire and a halt of all offensive military operations. (Applause.)
Our troops are coming home. And I am pleased to report that through this
ceasefire, Turkey and our Kurdish allies have now created an opportunity
that the international community can create a safe zone that we believe
will restore peace and security for all the peoples of this war-torn
region. It is progress, indeed.
So thank you again for the honor of being here today, and it’s a
particular honor to deliver the inaugural Frederic V. Malek Memorial
Anyone who knew Fred would tell you that he was a proud son of West Point
and that he lived his life by the words “duty, honor, and country.”
When counseling others, I’m told, he often quoted his alma mater’s
Cadet Prayer and urged them to, as he would say, “Choose the harder right
instead of the easier wrong.”
Fred understood that no one — least of all, nations — can defend their
interests by forsaking their values. So in honor of Fred’s memory, I
come here today to discuss a subject on which much of the destiny of the
21st century will hinge: the United States relationship with China.
Since the earliest days of this administration, President Trump has been
determined to build a relationship with China on a foundation of candor,
fairness, and mutual respect, in order to achieve, in his words, “a more
just, secure, and peaceful world.”
One year ago this month, I spoke about many of Beijing’s policies most
harmful to America’s interests and values, from China’s debt diplomacy
and military expansionism; its repression of people of faith; construction
of a surveillance state; and, of course, to China’s arsenal of policies
inconsistent with free and fair trade, including tariffs, quotas, currency
manipulation, forced technology transfer, and industrial subsidies.
Past administrations have come and gone, and all were aware of these
abuses. None were willing to upset the established Washington interests
who not only permitted these abuses, but often profited from them. The
political establishment was not only silent in the face of China’s
economic aggression and human rights abuses, but they often enabled them.
As each year passed, as each factory closed in the heartland of America, as
each new skyscraper went up in Beijing, American workers grew only more
disheartened, and China grew only more emboldened.
In less than two short decades, we’ve seen, as President Trump has said,
“the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.” Over
the past 17 years, China’s GDP has grown more than nine-fold; it has
become the second-largest economy in the world. Much of this success was
driven by American investment in China.
Beijing’s actions have contributed to the United States’ trade deficit
with China that last year ran to more than $400 billion — nearly half of
our global trade deficit. As President Trump has said many times, we
rebuilt China over the last 25 years. No truer words were spoken, but
those days are over.
As history will surely note, in less than three years, President Donald
Trump has changed that narrative forever. No longer will America and its
leaders hope that economic engagement alone will transform Communist
China’s authoritarian state into a free and open society that respects
private property, the rule of law, and international rules of commerce.
Instead, as the President’s 2017 National Security Strategy articulated,
the United States now recognizes China as a strategic and economic rival.
And I can attest firsthand, a strong majority of the American people, in
the city and on the farm, are behind President Trump’s clear-eyed vision
of the U.S.–China relationship. And the President’s stand also enjoys
broad bipartisan support in the Congress as well.
Over the past year with that support, President Trump has taken bold and
decisive action to correct the failed policies of the past, to strengthen
America, to hold Beijing accountable, and to set our relationship on a more
fair, stable, and constructive course for the good of both of our nations
and the world.
When our administration took office, China was on track to become the
largest economy in the world. Experts predicted that China’s economy
would surpass the United States’ economy in just a few short years. But
thanks to bold economic agenda advanced by President Trump, all that has
From early on in this administration, this President signed the largest tax
cuts and tax reform in American history. We lowered the American corporate
tax rate to mirror other corporate rates around the world. We rolled back
federal regulation at record levels. We unleashed American energy. And
President Trump has stood strong for free and fair trade.
The result? America has the strongest economy in the history of the world.
(Applause.) And the strongest economy in our own history.
Unemployment today is at a 50-year low. There are more Americans working
today than ever before. Median household income in the last two and half
years has risen by more than $5,000. And that doesn’t even account for
the savings from the President’s tax cuts or energy reforms for working
Because of the President’s policies, America has added trillions of
dollars of wealth to our economy while China’s economy continues to fall
To level the playing field for the American worker against unethical trade
practices, President Trump levied tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods
in 2018. And earlier this year, the President announced we would place
tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods if significant issues in
our trading relationship were not resolved by December of this year.
To protect intellectual property rights and the privacy of our citizens and
our national security, we’ve taken strong steps to curtail illegal
behavior of Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE. And we’ve urged our
allies around the world to build secure 5G networks that don’t give
Beijing control of our most sensitive infrastructure and data as well.
And as we’ve grown stronger economically, President Trump has also signed
the largest increases in our national defense in more than a generation:
$2.5 trillion of new investment in our national defense just in the last
three years. We’ve made the strongest military in the history of the
world stronger still.
And to make it clear to Beijing that no nation has a right to claim the
maritime commons as territorial seas, the United States, in the last year,
has increased the tempo and scope of our freedom of navigation operations
and strengthened our military presence across the Indo-Pacific.
To uphold the values of freedom-loving people every year [everywhere],
we’ve also called out the Chinese Communist Party for suppressing freedom
of religion of the Chinese people. Millions of ethnic and religious
minorities in China are struggling against the Party’s efforts to
eradicate their religious and cultural identities.
The Communist Party in China has arrested Christian pastors, banned the
sale of Bibles, demolished churches, and imprisoned more than one million
We’ve held Beijing accountable for its treatment of Muslim minorities in
Xinjiang when, just last month, President Trump imposed visas restrictions
on Chinese Communist Party officials, as well as sanctions on 20 Chinese
public security bureaus and 8 Chinese companies for their complicity in the
persecution of Uighurs and other Chinese Muslims. (Applause.)
And we’ve stood by Taiwan in defense of her hard-won freedoms. Under
this administration, we’ve authorized additional military sales and
recognized Taiwan’s place as one of the world’s great trading economies
and beacons of Chinese culture and democracy.
And as millions have taken to the streets in peaceful protest, we’ve
spoken out on behalf of the people of Hong Kong. And President Trump has
made it clear from early on that there must be a peaceful resolution that
respects the rights of the people of Hong Kong, as outlined in the 1984
Sino-British Joint Declaration.
These are all historic actions. And no President before has so vigorously
advanced America’s interests in our relationship with China.
In response to America’s actions and resolve, some multinational
corporations say our economic policies are too tough and that advancing our
interests and our values runs contrary to better relations with China.
Needless to say, we see it very differently. Despite the great power
competition that is underway, and America’s growing strength, we want
better for China. That’s why, for the first time in decades, under
President Donald Trump’s leadership, the United States is treating
China’s leaders exactly how the leaders of any great world power should
be treated — with respect, yes, but also with consistency and candor.
And in that spirit of candor, I must tell you that in the year since my
Hudson speech, Beijing has still not taken significant action to improve
our economic relationship. And on many other issues we’ve raised,
Beijing’s behavior has become even more aggressive and destabilizing.
On the trade front, this past May, after months of painstaking negotiations
resulted in mutual agreement on many key matters, at the last moment, China
backed away — backed away from a 150-page agreement, sending both sides
back to square one.
Now, President Trump still believes Beijing wants to make a deal. And we
welcome the support for American agriculture in the new phase one agreement
and hope it can be signed as soon as the APEC Summit in Chile this week.
But China knows there’s a whole range of structural and significant
issues between our two countries that also must be addressed.
For instance, despite a 2015 promise in the Rose Garden by China’s leader
to cease and desist, China continues to aid and abet the theft of our
Last July, the director of the FBI told Congress that of his agency’s
1,000 active investigations into intellectual property theft, the majority
involve China. American enterprises continue to lose hundreds of billions
of dollars each year in intellectual property theft.
Behind these statistics are not just businesses, but people, families, and
dreams threatened by the violation of their rights and the theft of their
genius. Free enterprise depends on the ability of risk-taking citizens to
pursue their ambitions and reap the rewards of their sacrifice. When the
product of their labor is stolen, when the sweat of their brow is made
futile, it undermines our entire system of free enterprise.
Last year alone, there’s been case after case of intellectual property
theft involving China. In March, Tesla filed suit against a former
engineer who’s been accused of stealing 300,000 files related to its own
American-developed autopilot system, before bolting for a job at a Chinese
self-driving car company.
And last December, the Justice Department revealed that it had broken up a
nearly four-year operation by a notorious hacking group within China’s
Ministry of State Security. These Chinese government officials stole the
names and data of 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel, as well as ship maintenance
information, with grave implications for our national security.
Despite China’s promises to crack down on Chinese fentanyl and other
synthetic opioids, the truth is, those deadly drugs also continue to flood
across our borders, claiming the lives of thousands of Americans every
And today, China’s Communist Party is building a surveillance state
unlike anything the world has ever seen. Hundreds of millions of
surveillance cameras stare down from every vantage point. Ethnic
minorities must navigate arbitrary checkpoints where police demand blood
samples, fingerprints, voice recordings, and multiple angle head shots, and
even iris scans.
And China is now exporting to countries in Africa, Latin America, and the
Middle East the very same technological tools that it uses in its
authoritarian regime: tools that it’s deployed in places like Xinjiang;
tools that it’s deployed often with the help of American companies.
And Beijing has also smashed the barriers between civilian and military
technological domains — a doctrine that China calls “military-civilian
fusion.” By law and presidential fiat, companies in China — whether
private, state-owned, or foreign — must share their technologies with the
And China’s military action in the region and its approach to its
neighbors over the past year has also remained increasingly provocative.
While China’s leaders stood in the Rose Garden in 2015 and said that its
country had, and I quote, “no intention to militarize” the South China
Sea, Beijing has deployed advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles atop an
archipelago of military bases constructed on artificial islands.
And Beijing has stepped up its use of what they call “maritime militia”
vessels to regularly menace Filipino and Malaysian sailors and fishermen.
And the Chinese Coast Guard has tried to strong-arm Vietnam from drilling
for oil and natural gas off of Vietnam’s own shores.
In the East China Sea, in 2019, our close ally, Japan, is on track to
scramble more fighter aircraft sorties in response to Chinese provocations
than in any previous year in history. And China’s Coast Guard has sent
ships for more than 60 days in a row into the waters around the Senkaku
Islands, which are administered by Japan.
China is also using its “One Belt, One Road” Initiative to establish
footholds in ports around the world, ostensibly for commercial purposes,
but those purposes could eventually become military. We see now the flag
of Chinese ownership flying today in ports from Sri Lanka to Pakistan to
And earlier this year, it was reported that Beijing had signed a secret
agreement to establish a naval base in Cambodia. And it is reported that
Beijing is even eyeing locations on the Atlantic Ocean that could serve as
And while our administration will continue to respect the One China Policy
— as reflected in the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations
Act — through checkbook diplomacy, over the past year China has induced
two more nations to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing,
increasing pressure on the democracy in Taiwan.
The international community must never forget that its engagement with
Taiwan does not threaten the peace; it protects peace on Taiwan and
throughout the region. America will always believe that Taiwan’s embrace
of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people. (Applause.)
But nothing in the past year has put on display the Chinese Communist
Party’s antipathy to liberty so much as the unrest in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has served as an important gateway between China and the wider
world for 150 years. Hong Kong is one of the freest economies in the
world, with strong, independent legal institutions and a lively free press,
and it’s home to hundreds of thousands of foreign residents.
Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces
liberty. And yet, for the last few years, Beijing has increased its
interventions in Hong Kong and engaged in actions to curtail the rights and
liberties of its people — rights and liberties that were guaranteed
through a binding international agreement of “one country, two
But President Trump has been clear, as he said in his words, “The United
States stands for liberty.” (Applause.) We respect the sovereignty of
nations. But America expects Beijing to honor its commitments, and
President Trump has repeatedly made it clear it would be much harder for us
to make a trade deal if the authorities resort to the use of violence
against protestors in Hong Kong. (Applause.)
Since then, I’m pleased to observe that Hong Kong authorities have
withdrawn the extradition bill that sparked the protests in the first
place, and Beijing has shown some restraint.
In the days ahead, I can assure you, the United States will continue to
urge China to show restraint, to honor its commitments, and respect the
people of Hong Kong. And to the millions in Hong Kong who have been
peacefully demonstrating to protect your rights these past months, we stand
with you. (Applause.) We are inspired by you, and we urge you to stay on
the path of nonviolent protest. (Applause.) But know that you have the
prayers and the admiration of millions of Americans.
As China has exercised its influence across the region and across the
world, as I said last year, the Chinese Communist Party is also continuing
to reward and coerce American businesses, movie studios, universities,
think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials
to influence the public debate here in America.
Today, China is not only exporting hundreds of billions of dollars in
unfairly traded goods to the United States, but lately China has also been
trying to export censorship — the hallmark of its regime. By exploiting
corporate greed, Beijing is attempting to influence American public
opinion, coercing corporate America.
And far too many American multinational corporations have kowtowed to the
lure of China’s money and markets by muzzling not only criticism of the
Chinese Communist Party, but even affirmative expressions of American
Nike promotes itself as a so called “social justice champion,” but when
it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the
door. Nike stores in China actually removed their Houston Rockets
merchandise from their shelves to join the Chinese government in protest
against the Rockets general manager’s seven-word tweet, which read:
“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
And some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise
their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to
the freedom and rights of the people of China. In siding with the Chinese
Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly
owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.
A progressive corporate culture that willfully ignores the abuse of human
rights is not progressive; it is repressive. (Applause.)
When American corporations, professional sports, pro athletes embrace
censorship, it’s not just wrong; it’s un-American. American
corporations should stand up for American values here at home and around
the world. (Applause.)
And Beijing’s economic and strategic actions, its attempts to shape
American public opinion, prove out what I said a year ago and it’s just
as true today: China wants a different American President, which is the
ultimate proof that President Trump’s leadership is working.
America’s economy is growing stronger by the day, and China’s economy
is paying the price. The President’s strategy is correct. He’s
fighting for the American people, for American jobs and American workers
like no one has before. And I promise you this administration will not
stand down. (Applause.)
That said, the President has also made it clear the United States does not
seek confrontation with China. We seek a level playing field, open
markets, fair trade, and a respect for our values.
We are not seeking to contain China’s development. We want a
constructive relationship with China’s leaders, like we have enjoyed for
generations with China’s people. And if China will step forward and
seize this unique moment in history to start anew by ending the trade
practices that have taken advantage of the American people for far too
long, I know President Donald Trump is ready and willing to begin that new
future — (applause) — just as America has done in the past.
When Deng Xiaoping’s “Reform and Opening” policy encouraged
engagement and exchange with the outside world, the United States responded
with open arms. We welcomed China’s rise. We celebrated the remarkable
accomplishment of 600 million people lifting themselves out of poverty.
And America invested more than any other nation in China’s economic
The American people want better for the people of China. But in pursuit of
that end, we must take China as it is, not as we imagine or hope it might
And people sometimes ask whether the Trump administration seeks to
“de-couple” from China. The answer is a resounding “no.” The
United States seeks engagement with China and China’s engagement with the
wider world, but engagement in a manner consistent with fairness, mutual
respect, and the international rules of commerce.
But, so far, it appears the Chinese Communist Party continues to resist a
true opening or a convergence with global norms.
All that Beijing is doing today, from the Party’s great firewall in
cyberspace or to that great wall of sand in the South China Sea, from their
distrust of Hong Kong’s autonomy, or their repression of people of faith
all demonstrate that it’s the Chinese Communist Party that has been
“de-coupling” from the wider world for decades.
President Xi himself, I’m told, said in a once-secret speech shortly
after his rise as Party General Secretary that China must
“conscientiously prepare for all aspects of long-term cooperation and
struggle between the two social systems.” He also told his colleagues at
that time not to underestimate the resilience of the West. And there was
wisdom in those words.
China should never underestimate the resilience of the freedom-loving
people of America or the resolve of the President of the United States.
(Applause.) China should know that the United States’ values run deep,
that our commitment to these values remains as strong as it was for our
Founding Fathers, and that there will never be a day when the bright light
of democracy and freedom goes out in America. (Applause.)
America was born out of rebellion against repression and tyranny. Our
nation was founded, settled, and pioneered by men and women of
extraordinary valor, rugged determination, faith, and fiery independence
and an iron will. And nothing has changed much in the centuries that have
Americans believe that all men and women are created equal and we’re
endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. And nothing will change these beliefs.
(Applause.) They are who we are. They are who we will always be.
And we will continue to believe that the values of democracy — of
individual liberty, of freedom of religion and conscience, the rule of law
— serve American and global interests because they are, and will ever be,
the best form of government to unleash human aspirations and guide the
relations between all the world’s nations and peoples.
Despite the many challenges we face in the United States-China
relationship, I can assure you that under the leadership of President
Donald Trump, the United States will not allow these challenges to
foreclose practical cooperation with China.
We will continue to negotiate in good faith with China to bring about
long-overdue structural reforms in our economic relationship. And as I
heard again from him this morning, President Trump remains optimistic that
an agreement can be reached.
We’ll continue to forge bonds between our two peoples through education,
travel, and cultural exchange.
China and the United States will also continue in a spirit of engagement to
work together to secure the full, final, and verifiable denuclearization of
And we will seek greater cooperation on arms control and the enforcement of
U.S. sanctions in the Persian Gulf.
America will continue to seek a better relationship with China. And as we
do so, we will speak plainly, because this is a relationship that both the
United States and China have to get right.
America will continue to seek a fundamental restructuring of our
relationship with China. And under the leadership of President Donald
Trump, America will stay the course. The American people and their elected
officials in both parties will stay resolved. We will defend our
interests. We will defend our values. And we will do so in a spirit of
charity and good will for all. (Applause.)
President Trump has forged a strong personal relationship with President
Xi. And on that foundation, we will continue to look for ways to
strengthen our relationship for the betterment of both of our peoples.
And we fervently believe the United States and China can and must work to
share a peaceful and prosperous future together. But only honest dialogue
and good-faith negotiations can make that future a reality.
And so, as I closed my speech a year ago, so I close today: America is
reaching out our hand to China. And we hope that, soon, Beijing will reach
back, this time with deeds, not words, and with renewed respect for
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that reads, “Men see only the
present, but Heaven sees the future.” As we go forward, let us pursue a
future of peace and prosperity with resolve and faith. Faith in President
Trump’s leadership and vision for our economy and our place in the world,
and faith in the relationship that he has forged with President Xi of China
and in the enduring friendship between the American people and the Chinese
people. And faith that Heaven sees the future — and by God’s grace,
America and China will meet that future together.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.