China is engaged in an “economic blitzkrieg” to supplant the United States as the world’s only superpower, Attorney General William Barr declared Thursday -- the latest in a series of scathing comments about Beijing by top Trump Administration officials.
Speaking at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Barr said the U.S. response to China’s global ambitions “may prove to be the most important issue for our nation and the world in the twenty-first century.”
China uses a variety of “predatory and often unlawful tactics” to gain an advantage over the U.S., according to Barr.
“How the United States responds to this challenge will have historic implications and will determine whether the United States and its liberal democratic allies will continue to shape their own destiny or whether the CCP and its autocratic tributaries will control the future,” Barr said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
Among China’s alleged predatory practices Barr listed were currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, theft and forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks, and espionage.
Beijing has long rejected many of the assertions made in Barr’s speech. China’s foreign minister warned on Wednesday that Beijing will retaliate with sanctions of its own against U.S. individuals and entities. The ministry said that “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” according to media reports.
American business leaders remain the “principal focus” of Chinese foreign influence operations, said the attorney general. He warned that U.S. executives who fail to disclose their relations with China could run afoul of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. FARA requires agents of foreign governments to disclose their activities and their relationship with foreign entities.
“You should be alert to how you might be used, and how your efforts on behalf of a foreign company or government could implicate” the law, Barr said.
The attorney general’s speech comes amid elevated tensions between the U.S. and China and is the latest in Trump administration officials’ often strident remarks about Beijing’s global ambitions in recent weeks.
Last month, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said decades-long U.S. efforts to moderate the Chinese communist system resulted in “the greatest failure of American foreign policy since the 1930s.”
“The days of American passivity and naivete regarding the People’s Republic of China are over,” O’Brien told a group of Arizona business executives on June 24.
FBI Director Christopher Wray weighed in last week, saying China poses “the greatest long-term threat” to U.S. economic and national security.
Almost half of the FBI’s 5,000 counter-intelligence cases involve China. The bureau is opening a new China case every ten hours, Wray said.
“And at this very moment, China is working to compromise American health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions conducting essential COVID-19 research,” Wray said during remarks at the Hudson Institute on July 7.
In the coming days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “will sum up what is at stake for the United States and the free world,” Barr said.
“I hope these speeches will inspire the American people to reevaluate their relationship with China, so long as it continues to be ruled by the Communist Party,” he said.
The speeches come as U.S. and China have clashed over a host of issues ranging from trade to Hong Kong’s autonomy and the coronavirus pandemic. While at one time President Trump aggressively sought to strike a trade deal with China, his administration is taking an increasingly hawkish stance toward Beijing, blaming China for initially covering up the coronavirus and for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy by imposing strict national security laws.
On Wednesday, Trump signed legislation and an executive order that said the U.S. “will hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.” The legislation imposes sanctions on Chinese officials who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, while the executive order ends preferential treatment to Hong Kong.