tv Rep. Joaquin Castro Discusses U.S. Global Engagement CSPAN October 23, 2021 4:50pm-5:37pm EDT
every purchase supports our nonprofit operations. use code gift 15. >> next, texas democratic congressman joaquin castro, chair of the house foreign affairs subcommittee, talks about u.s. global engagement at an event hosted by the atlantic council. it's 45 minutes. >> >> good afternoon and thank you all for joining us today. i'm a senior fellow in the new american engagement initiative a part of the scowcroft center for strategy and security at the atlantic council. this event is part of the future for a policy series that seeks to elevate new, diverse perspectives on the u.s. foreign policy and builds the core mission which is to develop sustainable nonpartisan strategies to address the most important security challenges
facing the united states and the world. eir goal of diplomacy and public engagement. representative castro has been at the forefront of these issues, speaking widely about state department reform, the importance of diplomacy and most recently in proposing a bill that would create an open translation analysis center to get important documents from china into english for public consumption. the conversation today will be moderated by jonathan hudson from the washington post, a well-known voice on foreign policy issues. we will also have time at the end for audience q&a. if you have questions, drop them into the event a function on their zoom and we will get to those at the end. jonathan: congressman about china and u.s. foreign policy, especially on the heels of this new legislation you have
introduced. i am bringing -- as far as i understand -- a translation service, open sourced documents and news stories coming out of china, government documents coming out of china. as i understand, this ideas inspired by the foreign broadcast information service which provided translation and analysis of the soviet bloc and other foreign media during the cold war. given the roots of this legislation and cold war inspiration, do you think that's really what we are in right now? a new cold war with china? rep. castro: no. i do not think it can be the same thing for everyone's sake. there is still a usefulness for open translation and analysis centers for us to be able to understand not only documents that come out of china but also
speeches from key figures. and other sources. we had a similar service until the late 1990's. i think in the 1990's with the collapse of the soviet union, there was a period when we really thought the united states would always be the only great superpower from there ever after. the only country that was going to maintain that role in the world. now what you have is a very aggressive and resurgent china, and also russia. there is a usefulness now to have how tax. it seems like a smart premise. -- jonathan: breaking down language barriers can lead us to better understand china's goals. i am wondering, if this is enacted and the translation service center gets erected, do you think we would then develop
more ominous understanding of china's goals? or more benign? do you think by this greater understanding, what you think the takeaways would be of the china we live in today? or that we live with today. we are not in china. rep. castro: this is not necessarily have to be something that in flames tensions towards china. there is already in the united states, and in the congress -- [no audio] -- also have to define when they cheat. this could be a way to a greater understanding of their perspective. there are challenges that americans and congress face. i do not believe we have clearly defined what it is we should
compete with china when they are competing with the united states and other nations. when they are cheating and when -- and what we need to call them out and finally when we ought to cooperate on certain issues like climate change or security in different regions of the world. jonathan: this is no small feat getting bipartisan legislation related to this center. it was introduced alongside republicans like gallagher. both of you have spent time talking about china and the challenges it represents. what you talk about it it different ways. you have characterized a challenge in different ways. you said china was a regime that threatens our cities, that was a
remark from just yesterday when the hypersonic missile reports came out. you have made a compelling case for why this translation center should exist. why do you think your republican colleagues also like the idea? [no audio] jonathan: are we having a technical issue? >> there we go. jonathan: i am not sure what happened. did you catch the question? rep. castro: i missed your third question. jonathan: sorry. i was saying just that you made a compelling case for why you
think this needed to exist. this open translation center. why you think your republican colic support it? rep. castro: there is concern all around. there is concern about what our posture as a nation and congress should be. if you look around congress, there's people whose posture is aggressive and hawkish and wants to punish china for everything. there are people that take a more measured approach and want to see where we can cooperate and collaborate but the fundamental basis for any of that, we should all agree is understanding what china is actually saying and doing. this is not just the equivalent of google translate. if that were the case we would leave it to automation. there is a component here that in -- that involves analysis. analyzing. if there is a speech given by different chinese leaders,
understanding the significance of who the speakers are and whether that particular person is close to zhejiang paying. -- xi jinping. it is translation of course, but the second part is very important. it is also analysis. jonathan: i do wonder, when it comes to communication and having the best understanding of what is happening between our two countries, i wonder what your view is on the fact that now china has more diplomats around the world than any other country. it is also happening when we have vacancies in key positions, ambassadors south korea, ambassador to france, that remain unfilled. some have said a side effect of this is already having missed communications on issues like
the -- which enraged the french after the nuclear submarine deal was announced between the u.s. and australia. do you think the united states is built to prioritize its diplomatic corps and a meaningful way? you have spent a lot time on oversight in the state department, that is also key way of communication and understanding what is going on with the united states on an elite level. rep. castro: our focus as a nation has to any in the world. the united states so far has been successful in that, but the department of defense is roughly 30 times the size of the state department. the state department and diplomacy are essentially the relationship building part of how we deal with other nations. military represents hopefully a deterrent, but if necessary a
coercive force. you want that to be your last option. unfortunately, we have it always prioritized, or built up, the infrastructure for diplomacy that were allowed -- that would allow us to reduce tensions and build alliances around the world to make sure we are in the strongest position in terms of allies and support. it is interesting you mentioned the number of diplomats china has committed they are -- there is right now an imbalance between the u.s. military positions around the world. china only has one military base outside of mainline -- mainland china, that's in djibouti. they are trying to get to other continents around the world, but the u.s. is far ahead of china in that respect. still, they have done a lot of work under their belt and wrote initiative to expand their
alliances around the world. whether it is in africa, latin america or europe. everywhere. they are doing it very quickly. jonathan: when it comes to diplomacy and who is winning the game of influence between the united states and china, china has distributed 1.1 billion vaccines according to its own data anyway. united states has delivered about 190 million vaccines. the chinese vaccine may not be as effective, probably, as u.s. vaccines, but how do you think the united states has fared when compared to china when it specifically relates to vaccine diplomacy coming out of the coronavirus? rep. castro: among the members of congress who have argued we should do more for the world, obviously we need to make sure we take care of americans and in this case we get the remaining
folks fully vaccinated and also get boosters, but also that we step up our efforts around the world. you're right, china has practice from the beginning vaccine diplomacy it is trying to leverage the gifting and sometimes even the sale of their vaccines to gain concessions in other areas. whether it is military, economic, so forth. united states needs to step up our efforts there. there are, just from different things that i have been briefed on in the intelligence committee, nations to feel burned by the way china has -- vaccine diplomacy. it is not like it has been 100% rosy for them and people to appreciate the united states' efforts, but that big differential is something we ought to close the gap on. jonathan: you have been a voice
that some have described as the progressive voice on foreign policy. someone who looks at foreign policy in a new way, breaking out bold thinking. obviously there's a lot of thought that has been put into how we have decided to depart from a post 9/11 counterterrorism posture with our foreign policy. a lot of soul-searching is happening after afghanistan as well, that the united states has spent trillions of dollars. it's counterterrorism wars, efforts to nation build in other parts of the world and there is obviously a lot of fatigue in the united states about that. but i think there is also concern that one of the ways the united states might pivot foreign policy is towards an as extensional -- existential
identity with china which may make the war on terror look small by comparison, given all of the new bells and whistles and toys that are being proposed, including out of congress in terms of new capabilities that will be required to confront china. or, if we don't, authoritarian sort of new curtain will drape itself over the world. are you concerned at all that there could be -- this push could result in even more unaccountable far-flung spending at the pentagon where a lot of the domestic agenda of the democrats support could fall by the wayside? rep. castro: at this point, that certainly is possible.
i would argue that, to a great extent, even how we spend our military dollars now, i don't believe is completely in step with the challenges that china poses militarily. we still spend a lot of money on what would be considered traditional, mainline military weaponry. tanks, airplanes, ships and so forth. get me wrong, i understand those are necessary, but china is engaging on a whole other front that to me is even more problematic and troublesome. that is on the technology front. whether it is artificial intelligence or other innovative technologies, if they are able to break through, the threat to the united states is such that even your best weaponry, your most sophisticated weaponry of today could be rendered useless in a matter of seconds. to me, we need to be spending our money wiser and wiser means
we are beefing up cybersecurity and we are improving our cyber lines throughout the world that we are being innovative in the fields i mentioned in a way that protects the national security of the united states and of our allies. right now in terms of how we spend military dollars, i have not seen a strong enough pit it in that direction. i'm not saying it is not going on, some of that has increased in the budget over the years, but i do not think it has been as aggressive as it should be in making that pivot jonathan: i understand what you mean about where you spend defense dollars. do you think that we spend -- we should keep spending at the same levels and just spend it on new things? or should it go down. rep. castro: i think if we spent it more appropriately for the time, it should be cheaper. the things we should be
investing a lot of money and right now are actually cheaper than the things that have cost us more traditionally. we have to understand sometimes if there is this disconnect between politics and good policy. before i give this example, i don't want to say that i have not gone down this road either. if you look at my eight years in congress, i probably have a time or two. but military dollars and military spending cannot be first and foremost considered a jobs program. as important it is, and the military is a huge employer, that is incredibly important and it is a great benefit to the community, but is not mostly meant to be a jobs program. it is meant to be a national security program. sometimes we have lost sight of that in congress. jonathan: one question on spending i wanted to bring up his looking at this, its current
iteration of the bill you introduced, if it is just russia focused it would be about $80 million a year, but you mentioned this is more than just google translate, many of us have used google translate when it comes to trying to read articles coming out of china. what does $80 million get to you beyond google translate in terms of the benefits of the service? rep. castro: of course it is a translation that will be from folks that are familiar with the slogans, the particular sayings in china. a more accurate -- it is more accurate than a rough google translate. but the analysis is very valuable. we mentioned china and russia, but there is the potential to expand it beyond those nations. the analysis part is especially important. important not just for people in
government, not just to benefit the state department or the department of defense and the administration, but also the media. i believe it was documents, procurement contracts and they were the ones that broke the story on the weaker internment camps. this whole translation and analysis and the work that government does and the work that media does. jonathan: i appreciate you highlighting the uyghur issue. another thing that is on the agenda is the olympics and the decision of what to do, if a, diplomatic boycott, letting u.s. athletes compete in seeing where
the chips fall. when you have thought about the olympics, what do you think the united states -- how do you think it should approach the issue in china? rep. castro: on the house board affairs committees, i chaired the subcommittee on international development and global corporate social impact. i convened a meeting with the u.s. olympic committee and the international olympic committee not too long ago. they meet about five weeks ago when i asked them some of these questions about the upcoming olympics. specifically, being mindful of the fact that we strongly disagree with the human rights issue on the treatment of uyghur s and making sure the olympic committee does not do anything to uplift or inadvertently promote any of what is going on there. and for future bids, you start to set certain guidelines on
human rights and other issues for the nations that are bidding. so that we don't get into situations where nations are being perceived as being rewarded even though they are committing egregious human rights behavior. jonathan: you care about climate change. president biden cares about climate change. it is pretty clear that some of the biggest problems when it comes to climate change are china's domestic coal use. the u.s. administration, especially special envoy carrie, has said it is so critical to cooperate with china, or get on the same page with china when it comes to solving the problem of climate change. the chinese, at the same time, has said you cannot isolate climate cooperation.
we have a very bad bilateral relationship with china and truth -- until that relationship improves, we are not going to have successful cooperation on climate. given these problems, given that dynamic, how does the united states get to a place of climate cooperation with china, given all that has been going on? rep. castro: you are right about the china challenge did in terms of its own development of energy, but china is also one of the leaders in the world at developing alternative energies and clean energies. they have a strong economic interest in promoting that energy around the world. i believe ultimately, moving there himself. i think that provides an opening. also, working through multilateral institutions, not just in a bilateral way but multilateral agreements like the paris climate accord.
to get us all moving in the same direction. i am not under any illusion is going to be easy or simple or that it will be solved in just a few years, but it is absolutely essential given the threats of climate change. another issue we will work on together is the issue of climate refugees. there has been no international or even american standard set for what a climate refugee is. that is one area i believe the china and the united states can work together to a knowledge that people migrate because of climate events and they should be offered protection in the way that we offer protection for people who suffer from political persecution. jonathan: do you believe the united states can, anna daily or weekly or monthly basis, condemn in strong terms the genocide when talking about china? condemn it on human rights, hong kong, contended on taiwan, and
all of the other issues with disagree with china and still have a productive relationship with china when it comes to climate? >> it is rep. castro: rep. castro: -- it is essential. you're talking about the top two economies in the world, two countries that historically have had the high -- highest levels of emissions. we got to be able to cooperate on an issue will like that that concerns not only our nations, but the world. it is a very thorny relationship. the congress, and the united states government, has not fully defined each of those categories that i mentioned. what it means for them to cheat, what it means for them to fairly compete, and the areas we can cooperate in. i feel like we are getting closer but we are not fully there. jonathan: do you think that in some cases, the united states
might have to modulate its rhetoric in some ways and soften it? or, is this an issue where standing up on human rights, where we do have such strong differences with the chinese from a is -- is it an absolute? any sort of wavering would be a disappointment and fall short of our values as a country. rep. castro: we have to lead with our values. there are certain things this country stands for. freedom, democracy, human rights. we shouldn't waiver in terms of those values or principles. when we negotiate with china and have conversations with them, obviously we try to do what it takes to get them to move in the humane direction. but in terms of our public posture and standing up for our values to the world, we need to do that. jonathan: the pentagon recently unveiled this notion that the right way to frame the
u.s.-china relationship is strategic competition. do you think that is the right framework? if it is, what you think winning looks like? rep. castro: is a great question. let me think through it. obviously you're dealing with the two largest economies. it is a relationship that is thorny and fraught with ironies because we are very harsh competitors in many arenas but also, they are our largest trading partner. i am reminded in the committee -- i reminded in the committee a few of my colleagues across the aisle who have rated china on certain things at the fact that it is a common is country. it is a communist country, but you are also lauding all of the economic trades the united states does with china. so, there is a lot of irony.
ultimately i think that what china is trying to sell is not only its goods and services around the globe, it's not the matter of huawei trying to compete with european telecom companies, they are also trying to sell their goodwill and their form of government, their authoritarianism. part of the way they do that is not just based saying, hey come our way is great. i do not think that is exactly how it happens. part of the way that it happens is through economic end of element alliances. such that for example, taking money. if you are in a country in africa or latin america or southeast asia, taking assistance were money from china often comes with no strings attached. that means they tend to look the other way if a dictatorial leader in a nation is mistreating his or her people. there are just no strings attached. we are not going to call you out
on that or sanction you. whereas with united states, because we are promoting our values of democracy and human rights, when we engage with patients we often expect them to hold certain values consistent with our own. what china is saying is, we are not asking any thing of you. maybe perfunctory early we are but we are not going to enforce that. that is the competition you face in china that is state capital -- [no audio] jonathan: the last thing i wanted -- the prospects for passage.
rep. castro: it is a bipartisan bill. things that are not bipartisan do not often get across the finish line. the lustration has been positive. we reached out for guidance. different folks of the administration, how they would do something within the legislation -- i am very hopeful, all in all. >> representative castro, john, thank you for the conversation. we are going to turn to questions from the audience to continue the discussion. for our listeners, please submit your questions in the q and a option window. i will go back to existing initiatives that we mentioned earlier. we have this very interesting question. the translation center sounds like a good idea, but it became
the open-source center, than the open source enterprise. it continues to exist and produce reporting, but it no longer makes its products public or shares it with the larger u.s. government. how will it not duplicate this? if i can go on with a question from lillian walker, there are already multiple resources within the state department diplomacy operation, like the global engagement center in the global public affairs bureau, that provide translation and distribution. to what degree with the translation center build from or coordinate with those efforts? rep. castro: that is a great question, and you are right. fpis never went away. it was an open source program,
but oftentimes producing classified information that is not readily available in the way the information coming out of o tec would be. this would be an attempt to make it more accessible to people in government, and also the american public, including people in american media and to our allies around the world. and also, in doing that, including analysis that would be very helpful to all of those different groups, and understanding china, and being able to get a perspective on china in a way i think they would not otherwise be able to. >> thank you. coming back to the funding issue, as we know, there is an independent problem with the state of diplomacy. an 80 plus million dollar appropriation for the translation center could come from existing appropriations for
the state department. rep. castro: my hope is that it would be separately funded. my idea is not to necessarily cannibalize anything else, although i do want to get the recommendation of the state department on exactly how we do this. my idea of the legislation was not to go cannibalize something, but to make sure that we have this standalone center that would be able to provide this valuable resource. >> i want to come back to the intervention issue, but i would like to widen the discussion a bit to talk about diversity. what do you think is important for diversity within the department? what would a diverse core look like? how would it be different? how would it achieve diversity? rep. castro: it has actually
been very difficult over the years. we can speak about the federal government in general, let's speak about the state department, for example, and our diplomatic corps. the state department still does not fully reflect the diversity of the nation, and i think our diplomatic corps in particular and our civil service should reflect our nation's diversity when diplomats from around the world, when others from around the world, see an ambassador representing the united states or somebody in a u.s. consulate. they ought to see the face of america. it is not just a matter of having people from different backgrounds with different skin tones. it is important because it is part of how american society contributes to american culture, and it is important to see that. there is a very valuable impact that a diverse group of people working together can bring to their work. unfortunately, that has been
missing over the years. when i took over as subcommittee chair last term, the first thing that i did was convene affinity groups at the state department, and ask them how we get a more diverse state department. we spoke about getting better at recruiting diverse candidates. you have a lot of folks that come in the door but don't end up staying for 15 or 20 years. they leave. how you recruit better, how you retain better, how you do a better job of promoting folks as well. it is imperative that the state department get this right, because there is real value to our country. aude: just coming back to something that john brought up earlier about the ambassadors -- i'm curious what you think about the issue. there is a real tension between congressional oversight of foreign policy and the ability of individual senators to act as
a block. rep. castro: first, not just on this issue of blocking ambassadors, but on other issues, i don't believe that every individual united states senator should have the power that they do to block different appointments and put a blue slip or whatever it may be as a block. i think it is giving too much power to a single individual. i know it is an old custom and tradition and so forth, and perhaps some confidence that it is a group of five or some other number. right now, it is clogging up the system. it is depriving the biden important appointments, allies around the world, who could make sure the infrastructure for diplomacy is in place. there are challenging issues, whether it is the withdrawal from afghanistan or the aftermath of that, the relationship with china,
re-engaging after the trump years, which i see as years of disengagement, re-engaging with europe and nato, strengthening our efforts in latin america -- those things require personnel. the require ambassadors and other personnel. to the extent you have a senator like ted cruz from texas, who is denying one senator -- denying the administration and the country. denying the country of key appointments, key personnel in place to deal with these national security issues -- it is dangerous. i consider that dangerous. he is playing a very dangerous game with our national security. aude: we alluded to the question of the relation between the state department and congress. could you tell us more about what the relationship between the state department and congress is right now? would you like to see any changes in how state
communicates with congress, and vice versa? i think we have some technical problems. we are going to wait just for a couple of seconds. i think there is some internet issue on representative castro's side. please hold just a few seconds with us. rep. castro: i'm sorry for the interruption. did you ask about the relationship between the state department and congress? aude: yes, and what changes would you like to see in the way state munich with congress and vice versa? rep. castro: that is a great question. secretary blinken has made himself available a few times now to congress. the department i think has made
an effort to be especially cooperative to the congress during this term. consider my bias, but i thought that the previous four years the department was in a very defensive mode. you had in many ways a mass exodus of people. many senior diplomats included left the department. it always seems to be from my perspective on the committee in some kind of turmoil or another. this is very much a rebuilding process for them and an assessment of where we are, american standing in the world now. i do think it took a hit in the previous administration. so far, they have been fairly cooperative, i think, with congress. we do need it to work on some key components. that is why many of us have done work in the last few years on reimagining the state department. what does the state department look like for the next 10, 20 years, and so forth? to answer your question, which i
hope they will work with us on, is making sure it is not just reimagining the department, but we start taking affirmative steps to rework the department. diversity is one of the issues, but doing a better job in terms of retaining people, in allowing folks who are in midcareer to also join the state department, not because we want to allow outside people to automatically leapfrog any of the well-qualified candidates at the state department, that i think you have to allow some way for folks to come in who did not start at the beginning. different ways we can reorganize the state department to make sure it is completely modernized for the time we are in. aude: thank you, and that is very important. and you have been an advocate for diplomacy as a tool of foreign policy. how would we go about doing that? are there specific areas that need reform?
and how could the private sector help boost u.s. diplomatic engagement around the world? rep. castro: there are opportunities. just the other day, we did a whole conversation on state and local diplomacy and the fact that one of the things we can do at the state department is to engage state and local efforts at subnational diplomacy. if you think about it, through the inter-cities organization and other organizations, there is an incredible organization of subnational diplomacy that goes on in our country every single day, and we have to be able to tap into that in a much better way. there are other ways. for example, engaging american companies in u.s. efforts in terms of development work, and how we marshaled the best and the brightest ideas from the private sector in taking on the world's development challenges. i'm a big champion and supporter
of what was called the global development lab, operated a few years ago and then disbanded under the trump administration, or at least broken up into other pieces in the state department. one of the things it did successfully was to put a call out to private companies, nonprofit and others, to take on some of the world's greatest development challenges, figure them out, and help scale them up. those are the some of the ways we can engage a private sector, who can be very helpful on diplomacy and development. aude: maybe one last quick question to wrap up. coming back to the underfunding issue, but also the effect on military spending over diplomacy -- you added to a question earlier. but what do you think it will take for meaningful change in spending or priorities to take
place? rep. castro: you know, i can tell you what i hope it does not take, or what does not happen, i should say. we saw this nuclear test that china just accomplished, and the system they were essentially testing. what i hope we don't experience is some kind of great cyber incursion. we already had the issue of russia messing with our 2016 election. but a greater attack on our critical infrastructure that is truly crippling for the country -- i fear that will end up waking people up, waking politicians up to the fact that we need to spend our money differently. we need to protect the integrity of our system. it is not just about buying new armaments.
it is about putting a technological infrastructure in place to protect your network and protect your systems, and build alliances to do the same thing, because other nations are vulnerable as well, and we need to be able to harness our collective resources. my fear is that if we don't do that we will be left very vulnerable to a rapidly advancing, technologically advancing china. that would put us in a very vulnerable position. that is what i don't want to see happen, is that we are kind of woken up by some huge, devastating attack on our critical infrastructure that is crippling, and all of a sudden now everyone has understood the importance of focusing on this other piece. aude: thank you, representative castro. i do hope we will not get to that point. unfortunately, we are running out of time. thanks again for being here with us. thank you to the audience for submitting your questions. i'm now going to turn it over to
emma, who will offer some closing remarks. thank you again. rep. castro: thank you. emma: that is a great conversation and a really wide-ranging one. i think the question i take away is that it is really imperative that the united states rebuild as we go forward in the 21st century. i think this conversation helps us understand the ways we might do that and some of the ob >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. >> the world has changed, an internet connection is something no one can live without. wow is there for our customers. it all starts with great internet. wow! >> wow support c-span as a
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