SALT LAKE CITY — As the leaders of the world's richest nations are meeting this week to discuss the state of global affairs, the growing economic and military threat posed by China emerged as a strategic concern that must be addressed.
It's the latest in a steady drumbeat of both humanitarian and economic concerns about China, with Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney continuing to highlight abuses on both fronts.
As the New York Times reported Saturday, President Joe Biden urged Western nations and Japan to throw their economic might into developing nations to counter what is called "Beijing's Belt-And-Road Initiative" which is an overseas lending and investment program which is dumping money into Africa, Latin America and to an extent, Europe.
According to the Times, the Chinese development effort far surpasses the Marshall Plan, the United States' program to rebuild Europe after World War II.
"At the Group of 7 summit meeting, discussions on Saturday about how to counter it reflected the debate within the West about whether to regard China as a partner, competitor, adversary or outright security threat," the Times reported.
Chinese dominance, both militarily and in the economic marketplace, has dominated domestic political discussions and prompted calls for the communist country to halt its human rights abuses.
Romney, R-Utah, is a co-sponsor of an amendment that calls for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics in light of those ongoing human rights abuses, including the Uyghur genocide.
The Chinese Communist Party's censorship, repression of religion and minorities and surveillance of its citizens is well known, Romney said during a Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday.
"But when it comes to its genocide of the Uyghur people, China has largely been able to hide what it is perpetrating from the world at large," he said, reported here in the Deseret News.
Romney headed the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and has also urged an economic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which was not included in the legislation.
Other members of Utah's delegation have also called on the United States to wean itself from its dependency on China for critical minerals necessary in the manufacturing of clean energy technology and the export of rare earth elements.
Renewables such as solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicle batteries are a cornerstone of President Joe Biden's ambitious climate change agenda, which calls for reaching a net zero emissions economy in a few decades.
But Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has emphasized that there is not a way to reach that goal to cutting emissions unless the United States is willing to mine its own resources domestically.
Stewart introduced legislation that would require Biden's Interior Department to do an assessment of mineral potential before it pulls any land off the table in the president's conservation plan, which urges 30% of public lands be put into conservation status by 2030.
The New York Times reported that it is far from clear how the United States and its allies plan to specifically counter China's spreading tendrils of influence across Latin America and Africa, but a key test is if Biden can convince G7 members to reject any projects that include China's forced labor practices.
Romney has railed against the Chinese Communist Party's continued atrocities against people in Hong Kong and the Uyghur population, a Muslim ethnic group in China's westernmost province.
He has repeatedly called for a boycott of China's Olympic games.
"Let us demonstrate our repudiation of China's abuses in a way that will hurt the Chinese Communist Party rather than our American athletes: reduce China's revenues, shut down their propaganda, and expose their abuses," he said in an opinion piece published in the New York Times.
He has also emphasized that Congress may be ill-equipped to deal with the threat of China and it will be a heavy left to counter the country's growing global influence.
"There is no way that a bunch of men and women in Congress are going to come up with a strategy to confront that. We are being outcompeted in a dramatic way on the world stage. We're not equipped as a group of folks that are a little long of tooth to come up with something so comprehensive that we're going to push back in a positive way and assert our leadership in the world," Romney said.