President Joe Biden̵
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s nomination for US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said she regretted speaking in 2019 at a China-funded institute in Savannah – remarks that quickly turned to fire at her hearing. Wednesday.
In her October 2019 speech, she appears to be downplaying China’s expansionist ambitions and investments in Africa, which critics have called “debt diplomacy.” Her remarks were made at the Confucius Institute at Savannah State University, a historic black college.
Thomas Greenfield said it was a “huge mistake” for her to speak at the Confucius Institute. She said she agreed to approach students at the university as part of her long-standing commitment to encouraging young black students to consider a career in foreign service.
Thomas Greenfield, a black woman, said she withdrew from the event “openly concerned” about the institute’s engagement with the black community, which she said included “persecution of those in need.”
Senator James Rish, the best Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Thomas Greenfield’s 2019 speech “the elephant in the room.” And Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Expressed shock that he does not seem to realize how China has used state-funded Confucius Institutes to spread propaganda. Many universities, including Savannah State University, have closed or otherwise severed ties with such institutes in recent years.
“China is a strategic adversary, and their actions threaten our security, they threaten our way of life,” Thomas Greenfield said, trying to reassure lawmakers that she was clear about China’s often predatory tactics. “They are a threat all over the world.”
Democrats on the committee noted that in other circumstances, Thomas Greenfield had issued many public warnings about China’s growing aggression. And they speculated that Republicans were distorting her words to sound gentle to China.
Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s incoming Democratic chairman, said Thomas Greenfield had been “alarmed” for years that the US withdrawal from the international community – as during the Trump administration – created a vacuum to fill China. In a speech in 2019, Menendez said it seemed to challenge China “to promote values such as good governance, gender equality and the rule of law” in Africa.
“That was exactly my intention,” Thomas-Greenfield replied.
She said she would aggressively repel China’s efforts to gain leverage and influence at the UN, along with other multilateral institutions.
“We know that China is working throughout the UN system to run an authoritarian agenda that is in opposition to the institution’s core values, American values,” she said. “Their success depends on our continued withdrawal. This will not happen on my watch. “
In her remarks in 2019, she downplayed the idea that the United States and China were involved in a new Cold War-style confrontation.
“There is a growing sense that the United States and China are competing to separate their share of this African future. Some have even called it a ‘new struggle for Africa,'” she said. “It’s certainly a turbulent time in US-China relations, but I don’t I agree with these stories and this zero-sum approach. We are not in a new Cold War – and Africans have much more leeway than these stories would make us believe. “
Senator Corey Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey and the only black MP on the committee, blew up the GO’s attacks on Thomas Greenfield and strongly defended his decision to accept an invitation to speak from a historic black college.
“You are one of the generations of women who break down barriers and show the way for women and African Americans,” Booker said.
In his opening remarks, Thomas Greenfield noted that when she joined the Foreign Service in 1982, she was “not the norm” in the State Department’s diplomatic corps as a woman or an African-American.
During his 35-year career in the foreign service, Thomas Greenfield has held numerous diplomatic posts around the world, from Kenya to Pakistan. She served as US ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012, before becoming the largest US diplomat on African affairs in the Obama administration.
She promised lawmakers she would bring a different tone to the UN than her recent predecessors.
“When America emerges – when we are consistent and persistent – when we exercise our influence in accordance with our values - the UN can be an indispensable institution for progress in peace, security and our collective well-being,” Thomas Greenfield MPs said in her opening remarks.
If confirmed, Thomas Greenfield could face continued skepticism and dissatisfaction with the job after former President Donald Trump mocked the UN and other multilateral institutions. He withdrew the United States from the UN Human Rights Council and the UN assistance program for Palestinian refugees. Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, former South Carolina Gov. Nicki Haley, has built a reputation in the international body in upholding Trump’s foreign policy as “America first.” Hailey’s successor, Kelly Knight Kraft, seems to be avoiding the spotlight.
Thomas-Greenfield’s allies say she is widely admired in the State Department and will help Biden restore America’s reputation on the world stage.
“She understands peacekeeping, she understands the UN, she understands the developing world,” said Wendy Sherman, who was secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration in November. Sherman is also ready to join the Biden administration if he is confirmed as deputy secretary of state.
In front of the burning crosses and machine guns
Thomas-Greenfield was born in Baker, Louisiana, in the early 1950s and attended segregated schools as a child. In a speech in 2019, she described growing up in a city “where the KKK regularly comes on weekends and burns a cross in someone’s yard.”
When she attended Louisiana State University, David Duke, a white Suprematist and clan leader, had a significant presence on campus, Thomas-Greenfield said, describing the deep racism she encountered during her student years.
In 1994, Thomas Greenfield was sent to Rwanda to assess the conditions of the refugees against the background of the genocide in that country. She said she was facing a “young man with covered eyes” with a machine gun, who apparently mistaken her for a Tutsi who had been assigned to kill.
“I did not panic. I was afraid, do not misunderstand me,” she said in her remarks for 2019. She asked him for his name, told him hers and managed to get out of the situation.
Her secret negotiating tool, she says, is “gumbo diplomacy,” which she used on four continents during her foreign service. She would invite guests to help make a ruff and cut onions for the “holy trinity” (onions, peppers and celery) in the tradition of Cajun.
“It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people, and starting to see each other on a human level,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “Enough lagniappe (or “something extra” in Cajun) is what we say in Louisiana. “
On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Anthony Blinken to head the State Department by 78 to 22 votes.
Contribution: Maureen Grope
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