The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, following a difficult confirmation process that saw delays and scrutiny in a speech praising China’s focus on Africa.
Thomas-Greenfield was confirmed on a 78-20 vote. The deadline for his confirmation was delayed after Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, used a procedural move to push the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote early. of this month.
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Cruz and other Republicans had raised concerns about a 2019 speech the diplomat made on “China-United States-Africa Relations” at the Savannah State University Confucius Institute’s fifth anniversary conference.
The speech, the excerpts of which were reported by The Washington Post, called the Chinese intervention in Africa a “win-win-win situation” in which the communist regime and the United States could promote good governance, gender equality and rule of law.
“I don’t see any reason why China cannot share those values,” he said. “In fact, China is in a unique position to spread these ideals given its strong presence on the continent.”
On Tuesday, Republicans cited the speech and other comments as a reason for voting no.
“Let’s make it clear that Linda Thomas-Greenfield has a history of praising and sympathizing with the Chinese Communist Party. It is not an anomaly,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said in a statement. “As an expert on Africa, between 2013 and 2019 she testified before both houses of Congress that the United States ‘is not competing with China in Africa.’
“We need a UN ambassador to stop Beijing in its tracks, not one to repeat the CCP’s foreign policy concepts,” he said.
The 2019 speech was a central topic at his confirmation hearing, where he expressed regret for the words. Thomas-Greenfield said he now supports efforts to crack down on the Confucius Institute.
“I sincerely wish I had not accepted this specific invitation and I came out of the experience frankly alarmed by the way the Confucius Institute was engaging with the black community in Georgia,” he said.
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He also promised that the United States would take a firm approach against Chinese influence at the UN, where Beijing has been steadily increasing its power for years.
“We know that China is working throughout the UN system to advance an authoritarian agenda that runs counter to the institution’s core values - American values,” he said. “Your success depends on our continued withdrawal. That will not happen under my supervision.”
After the initial confirmation hearing, Cruz tweeted a number of examples showing his praise for the Chinese Communist Party before and after his Confucius Institute speech, noting that the 2019 speech was not unique.
“At a time when I believe that China represents the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States in the next century, we need a UN ambassador to stand up to China, China’s dominant influence at the United Nations, and given her track record, I have There is no confidence that this nominee will, “he said.
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But Democrats on the committee pointed to those comments to argue that she would be tough on Beijing despite the speech.
“You can go back and find speeches, comments and speeches from presidents, CEOs, senators, and diplomats from both parties for decades saying positive and complimentary things about China and its future,” said Senator Chris Coons, D-Del. “And If we want to play a game where we go back and point out something that was done here and there that was positive about China, we can play Punch and Judy almost indefinitely on a partisan basis. “
Meanwhile, the State Department said Thomas-Greenfield “has been sounding the alarm about China for decades.”
Thomas-Greenfield will be joining work at a busy time in Turtle Bay. In addition to dealing with diplomatic challenges in places like Libya, Yemen, China and Iran, the Biden administration has been rapidly undoing the UN policies of the Trump era.
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So far, Biden has halted the World Health Organization’s withdrawal, re-entered the United States into the Paris climate accord, and has indicated that he wants to re-enter the Human Rights Council.
Hugh Dugan, a former US delegate to the United Nations, where he served with 11 ambassadors, told Fox News that the new US ambassador must act quickly to contain China’s ambitions.
“Linda Thomas-Greenfield, as Ambassador, must rally America’s allies to defend against the hijacking of the UN brand by the Communist Party of China to distract from its COVID-19 flaws, short-circuit on human rights and sowing its authoritarianism in countries large and small, “he said.
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“It needs to sound the alarm for Washington to muster a wealth of American talent to outperform multilateral arenas against China and the UN game plans of other adversaries,” he said.
Next week, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield could face something of a baptism of fire, as her first role will be to assume the presidency of the Council during the month of March, when the US takes over the presidency of the United Kingdom. The US will lead the council agenda in March and play an influential role in the council program.