Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday accused the Biden administration of "rolling over" for the Chinese Communist regime in a wide-ranging speech that tackled the Chinese threat, and also took aim at U.S. corporations who he said "openly aid and abet" the regime.
The speech, the 2021 B.C. Lee Lecture at The Heritage Foundation, is one of a trilogy of speeches Pence has given on the issue of China, having given significant speeches in 2018 and 2019. His latest speech comes after President Xi Jinping’s muscular language as he marked the 100-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s founding.
"The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us and anyone who attempts to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people," Xi said.
Pence said the Trump administration had "changed the national consensus on China" by building up military spending, standing up to trade abuses and imposing tariffs on China, while also speaking out against human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Pence claimed the debate was now settled and that "Americans of every political persuasion recognize that the Chinese regime harbors adversarial intentions toward the United States and our allies."
However, despite a national consensus on the China threat, Pence accused the Biden administration of "already rolling over for Communist China."
"They rejoined the Paris climate accord, allowing China to pollute with impunity. They rejoined the Chinese-controlled World Health Organization without demanding a single concession in the wake of failures throughout the pandemic. And they terminated our administration’s inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, before later reversing course," he said.
He noted some areas when Biden and Trump administrations have aligned on policy – including the current retention of tariffs. However, the former VP said it was not enough.
"It is incumbent upon the Biden administration to keep up the pressure, pick up the pace and lead America forward," he said.
Pence pointed to the rhetoric coming from Beijing, including Xi’s remarks about bashing heads and what he said was an aggressive tone from Chinese diplomats during initial meetings with Biden officials, adding that he believed it was in response to the perceived weakness coming from the U.S.
"There's an old saying that ‘weakness arouses evil’ and my sense is that China senses weakness in the new administration," he said.
Pence said the U.S. must respond in a number of ways. He called for the U.S. to put further pressure on China about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic – amid increasing evidence that the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan. Biden has requested the intelligence community report back on what it believes sparked the pandemic.
He also called for the U.S. to stop funding scientific research in China, alluding to controversies surrounding the funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and alleged "gain of function" research.
"When America funds scientific research in China, we become complicit in every abuse committed using the technology developed," he said. "Under no circumstance should the United States allow public or private funding of scientific laboratories in Communist China – especially those involved in gain of function research today."
Pence also said Biden should increase efforts to "decouple" the U.S. economy from China, citing ownership by Chinese investment of hundreds of thousands of acres of U.S. farmland – and calling for a ban on Chinese investment of U.S. infrastructure like pipelines. He also called for support for Taiwan and the people of Hong Kong.
However, as well as criticizing the Biden administration, Pence took aim at corporate America and celebrities who have been subservient to the regime and silent about its abuses.
"Today, America is forced to confront China on two fronts: one against an authoritarian system and military bent on regional domination, and the other against powerful business interests and celebrities in our own country who openly aid and abet the communist regime," he said.
He hit CEOs, celebrities and businesses who praise the regime, while criticizing the U.S. for its alleged failings.
"Beijing has exploited modern corporate America’s insatiable appetite for market access and coerced top CEOs, athletes and entertainers into not only withholding criticism from the communist regime, but in many cases actively singing its praises," he said.
"American business leaders preach social justice at home, while they profit from slavery abroad. They boast of their commitment to the environment while their facilities in China blacken the skies and choke our oceans with plastic," he said. "They criticize America’s Founding Fathers while lauding the regime that murdered millions of its own citizens during the Great Leap Forward, and perpetrated the massacre at Tiananmen Square."
"Millions of America are looking at corporate America today and saying: Are you on our side, or theirs?" he said.
He called on Americans to stop buying Chinese imports and for employers to stop sending jobs and factories to China, and for investors to stop investing in companies tied to the Chinese military.
"The truth is, the China problem was made and manufactured right here in the USA. China’s rise continues to be enabled by American businesses and some in public life, and continues to be powered with American technology, all at the expense of the American people," he said.
But he added: "A problem made in America can be fixed in America. All we have to do is stay the course set by our administration and stand firm."