Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty criticized the liberal groups that called on the Biden administration to soften its stance on China, saying the U.S. adversary will not behave in a "rational" manner on its own in a Saturday interview.
A group of more than 40 progressive organizations sent a letter to Biden this week urging the White House to adopt a more conciliatory approach with China, for the sake of climate change.
"We’ve seen this movie before in the Clinton administration," Hagerty told Fox News in an interview. "We allowed China into the WTO [World Trade Organization]. The thought back then: ‘Let’s expose China to our market economy, let’s give them the opportunity to see how we behave, let’s be conciliatory to China, let’s look the other way, and eventually they’ll behave in a more rational, more market-like fashion’.
"That is not the China that exists," he added. "We’ve got to take the world as it is, not as we wish it would be."
The letter to Biden signified a divide in the Democratic Party with moderate members pushing the administration to be tough on Chinese policies surrounding human rights abuses in Xinjiang and naval aggression in the Taiwan Strait, while also addressing climate change.
Leftist Democrats in the party have instead argued climate change is the greatest existential threat facing the U.S. and needs to be prioritized.
But Hagerty said China’s actions internationally speak to a bigger picture that could be trouble globally.
"Think back to President Xi standing in the Rose Garden in 2015 next to Obama saying, ‘We have no military intention for these islands’ – these fake islands that they’re building in the South China Sea," Hagerty explained. "These are military assets that China has gone in and crush coral reefs, poured millions of tons of concrete into the ocean – without a single complaint from the environmental sphere in the United States."
The senator said this is just one element in China’s overall scheme for global dominance.
As part of its global Belt and Road Initiative, China is heavily investing in mining and energy resources in the Arctic.
The communist nation is also looking to establish new sea routes through the frozen region in coordination with Russia – concerning several of the sovereign nations whose coastal lands give them jurisdiction over the area.
But Hagerty said China’s aggression in the Arctic – under the guise of research – is similar to its motive in Africa.
"What they’re trying to do is secure natural resources, vital natural resources, that can become choke points on the world’s economy," the senator said. "That what their strategy must be in the Arctic region, that’s what it has been in Africa.
"China’s strategy is aggressive at every turn," he concluded. "It’s predatory in every step."