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Biden’s U.N. ambassador nominee to face criticism for past praise of China
By Washington Post, January 27, 2021
Thomas-Greenfield was already questioned by multiple senators in private meetings about an Oct. 25, 2019, speech she gave on “China-U.S.-Africa Relationships” at the Savannah State University Confucius Institute’s fifth anniversary lecture event. Several Senate aides said the speech was too optimistic and soft regarding China’s policies and intentions in Africa at a time when the U.S. government was trying to shed light on China’s many abuses there.She called for “a win-win-win situation” in Africa, one in which the United States and China would work together to promote values there such as good governance, gender equity and the rule of law, according to a copy of her speech I obtained.
“I see no reason why China cannot share in those values,” she said. “In fact, China is in a unique position to spread these ideals given its strong footprint on the continent.”
She touted Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and noted China’s vast expansion into all aspects of African economic and even cultural life. She criticized the Trump administration for treating Africa as a battleground for great power competition. She said the United States and China are not in a cold war and the notion that U.S.-China competition could be good for Africa is false. Thomas-Greenfield also seemed to excuse Beijing’s debt-trap diplomacy in Africa.
“Those who would criticize Chinese predatory lending or the governments who accept these deals must also acknowledge that in many cases, the United States and the West is not showing up or offering viable alternatives,” she said. “This is especially the case because U.S. investment in diplomatic engagement is lagging.”
It’s certainly true that Beijing’s success is due in part to the vacuum left by lax attention from the West, GOP staffers admitted, but they noted that began well before the Trump administration. Regardless, “America’s top diplomats should not be praising the genius of the Chinese Communist Party while denigrating American diplomacy at the Confucius Institute,” a senior GOP Senate aide told me, characterizing the concerns of members and staffers in his party.
Multiple senators are planning to raise this speech with Thomas-Greenfield at her confirmation hearing, including asking her whether she was paid by the Confucius Institute, which is fully funded by the Chinese government. Sources told me she received a $1,500 honorarium, which was paid by the university. Savannah State University closed its Confucius Institute last year, one of several dozen U.S. academic institutions to do so as concerns rose about Chinese Communist Party influence on U.S. campuses.