Senate Democrats


Washington, DC – Today, Democratic Leader Harry Reid sent the following letter to President Bush on his upcoming trip to Asia and urging the president to develop a comprehensive policy to address the rise of China:

November 14, 2005

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you regarding your upcoming trip to the China after the APEC summit. I hope that you will use your trip as an opportunity to begin to develop a comprehensive series of policies to respond to the rise of China.

The rise of China – economically, militarily, and diplomatically – is already one of the most important developments of the 21st century. China’s growing importance and power is not a zero-sum game, inevitably coming at the expense of the United States. If the United States develops a comprehensive framework of policies, in association with the Chinese government where appropriate, there can be mutual benefits. There will no doubt be tensions along the way, however. China’s non-democratic government has taken actions and pursued policies that understandably stoke concerns and fears in America. The current ad hoc, inconsistent, and essentially aimless approach of U.S. policy toward China has exacerbated these fears.

Your trip to China presents an important opportunity to finally begin to fill the void. Towards that end, I encourage you to take significant steps towards progress on security, trade, and human rights issues. First, reports suggest that you will be discussing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program during your visit to China. I hope indeed that you will engage personally in moving negotiations forward on this important issue. It has been of great concern that the policy confusion in your first term resulted in North Korea quadrupling the number of nuclear weapons it possesses. Comments by a number of senior U.S. officials expressing a willingness to consider confidence building measures and serious negotiations to further U.S. objectives strike me as a positive step. I hope you will take the opportunity to draw upon the full power and prestige of the Office of the President to look for bold and creative steps in pursuing an effective path of negotiations and addressing the grave threat to global security posed by North Korea.

Second, China’s continued investment in building up its military raises many questions about China’s long-term intent in the region. I call your attention to the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s recent recommendation to develop and implement new confidence-building measures between the U.S. and China designed to address questions about intent, facilitate resolution of tensions, and minimize misunderstanding between the nations’ civilian and military leaders at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. An increased and consistent dialogue between U.S. and Chinese senior officials could go a long way toward building trust and cooperation between the two countries and advancing the national security interests of the United States in the region. I urge you to consider this recommendation.

In the trade area, U.S. policy needs a major overhaul. The U.S. trade deficit with China is on pace to exceed $200 billion this year. Until 1999, the U.S. trade deficit with the entire world had never exceeded that staggering amount. In order to fund the deficit, the United States has had to borrow heavily from the Government of China – meaning China now has influence over U.S. interest rates. I urge you to use your visit to raise a number of trade issues with President Hu.

At the center of the trade deficit and debt spiral is China’s policy of currency manipulation. I hope you will use your visit to end the inconsistency in U.S. policy and convey in an unequivocal and public way that China must stop maintaining an artificially low exchange rate to gain a competitive advantage. If China does not, your Treasury Department should tell it like it is and finally cite China in its semi-annual currency manipulation report.

I also hope that you will emphasize to President Hu the need to stop piracy, counterfeiting, and patent infringement of American intellectual property. The U.S. IP industries lead the world and are critical to the U.S. economy; protecting intellectual property is essential to advancing America’s competitive edge in the global marketplace. I applaud the recent WTO effort against piracy in China, but we clearly need to do more. China’s failure to enforce the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies costs them billions, and means lost American jobs. It is time for the Government of China to stop making excuses and start demonstrating a will to respect U.S. intellectual property.

More generally, I encourage you to emphasize to President Hu the need for prompt and full compliance by China with its WTO obligations. This is what America bargained for, and our workers, farmers, and businesses deserve no less.

Finally, I encourage you to make sure that human rights are at the top of the agenda. The U.S. State Department, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom all agree that China systematically violates the basic human rights of its people. I hope that you will make sure President Hu understands that respect for human rights is an integral part of any Sino-U.S. relationship and continues to be a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.


Senator Harry Reid
Senate Democratic Leader