Gov. Pete Ricketts

As America emerges from the Fourth of July weekend, there’s another important reminder this month of why we should cherish our freedom and liberty.

July marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.

CCP officials have already been holding celebrations to paint a positive image of their work on the world stage.

While the CCP pushes propaganda on the anniversary of its founding, it’s important that Americans understand how the communist regime operates.

To this end, I signed a proclamation designating July as “Victims of Communism Remembrance Month.”

Over the years, communism has led to the deaths of nearly 100 million people worldwide.

The proclamation ceremony included Nebraskans who came from families and countries ruled by communist regimes.

At the event, former State Sen. Lydia Brasch shared her family’s story of fleeing the communist regime in Ukraine.

Before they fled, her family would pray in the closet with a secret Bible and a candle.

She shared how her uncle was shot and killed by the regime after they found a short wave radio in his home in Kiev.

They had no freedom of speech or freedom of religion.

Stories like these are still happening today — including in China.

As the CCP celebrates their centennial, it’s important we understand how they are actually governing.

And it’s important that we recommit to strengthening the American Free Enterprise system, so that future generations of Americans can continue to enjoy the economic prosperity and freedom that has made our country great for almost 250 years.

If we want this, America has to ensure that our policy towards China protects the future of capitalism and holds China accountable to their commitments.

As we think about the future of the U.S.-China relationship, there are three major areas that need focus: trade, national security and human rights.

Trade: Over the past several decades, many have viewed China’s growing economy as a major trade opportunity. Unfortunately, China has been an unreliable trading partner over the years. Nebraska’s trade with China peaked in 2012, declining from $1.7 billion in trade to $913 million in 2019. Because of this uncertainty, Nebraska has put an increasing focus on diversifying our trade relationships to ensure that we are not too reliant on any single trade market. To do this, I have led trade missions to Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Vietnam. While the pandemic put a temporary hold on trade missions over the last year, Nebraska will soon be traveling internationally to promote our goods once again.

Furthermore, President Trump sought to address several structural problems in our trade relationship with China in his Phase One trade deal, which was signed in 2020. Since then, Nebraska has seen large purchases of commodities. It is critical, however, that President Biden continue to hold China accountable for their commitments in this agreement. The ongoing presence of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods serves as a reminder that there is more work to do on U.S.-China relations. President Trump started a conversation about a Phase II trade agreement, and it’s critical that President Biden continue those talks on resolving issues including forced tech transfer and currency manipulation.

National security: Open shipping lanes are key to America’s trade relationships in Asia. It’s important that the United States continue to challenge the CCP’s attempt to dominate the South China Sea. We should also continue to sell arms to Taiwan and find other ways to support their self-defense to ensure that they remain autonomous.

We must also be watchful on the home front. We must safeguard our research institutions to prevent intellectual property theft. Over the years, the CCP has worked to steal intellectual property from domestic researchers as well as through forced tech transfers from international businesses operating in China. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “About 80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) allege conduct that would benefit the Chinese state, and there is at least some nexus to China in around 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases.”

Human rights: As we work on trade and national security issues related to China, it’s also important that we push the CCP to respect human rights. Over the last few years, there’s been growing awareness of the persecution of the Uyghur people by the CCP in Xinjiang Province. The CCP has forced Uyghur people to live in internment camps, where they are indoctrinated with CCP propaganda, made to do hard labor, and reportedly undergo forced sterilizations. In addition to the mass detentions, the CCP is engaging in intrusive surveillance of minority groups to identify and root out dissent. Additionally, the CCP continues to crack down on any dissenting voices in Hong Kong, including the recent forced closure of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper.

These are just a couple of the ongoing human rights issues in China. It is important that the Biden Administration and State Department use the resources they have available to them to highlight these abuses, and use multi-lateral techniques to push the CCP to respect free speech, political dissent and religious freedom.

Whether it’s reaching a Phase II trade deal or keeping Taiwan autonomous, the United States has a great deal of work ahead of us in our relationship with China.

By keeping our focus on these key priorities, the U.S. can protect our way of life and carry our message of freedom around the world for generations to come.

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