Listening to wisdom vs. how you act on it

Now that the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party has had its first meeting on February 28th, this blogger decided to go in and see what’s up with the committee. 

Senator Josh Hawley
PC: “Josh Hawley Primary Night” by Natureofthought is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

What prompted this inquiry was a letter sent by Senator Josh Hawley on March 10, 2023, to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Even in the lofty world of diplomatic-speak, where one should speak softly, observes much, and acts little, the letter is far from the optimum language that a leader in one part of a government, speaks to another. In the letter, Hawley does not even try to be discreet in his request, but overtly states to President Xi “time is up” when it comes to China’s disclosure about the origins of the COVID virus in 2019. 

Juxopose that blunt statement with Committee testimony on how to approach the overall discussion on China. In its first meeting, again on February 28th, the committee received testimony from H.R. McMaster, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 

Now one would think that McMaster, who served as National Security Adviser under President Trump, would be in line with the blunt language presented in the letter from Hawley to Xi. 

However, McMasters words are much more sage in their nature and show that, potentially, not everyone in Washington DC, on this subject, is all in line with a hawkish tone toward China. 

In McMasters 11-page testimony to the Committee about China, he concluded his remarks about how the United States should approach China at this key time with this statement, 

We can no longer afford to be complacent about the threat from China’s campaign of cooption, coercion, and concealment. But we should be confident. We might remember how in In May of last year the Kremlin leadership watched a well-choreographed military parade even as its poorly-led, ill-trained, and undisciplined military was failing in Ukraine. Meanwhile the CCP was doubling down on its self-destructive Zero Covid policy and continuing its crackdown on the tech sector as it scrambled to contain a real estate crisis. Authoritarian regimes are brittle. Democracies are resilient. This Committee is an example of why we should be confident. Americans have a say in how we are governed and can demand better policies to compete with the CCP.

Testimony of Herbert Raymond McMaster to the Select Commitee, 2-28-2023
The profile photo of the Select Committee
PC: The Select Committee on the CCP on Twitter

If one listens to the talking heads in conservative media, it’s a sure bet that this conclusion won’t be shown in their report on the Committee, or how we should look at China. And the reason is that this does not carbonate the passions of the core conservative movement to run a loud and pointed campaign against China. 

And the more they promote a “us versus them” tone like Hawley does, the less opportunity there will be to show confidence in re-adjusting the relationship between the United States and China, which McMasters promotes in his testimony. As a follower of long-term diplomatic history, it should be noted that the promotion of what McMasters says goes further than what Hawley said, for continued engagement with China. 

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