China Policy Profiles: Senator Cory Booker

Cory Booker was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. As mayor, he did not have much experience in international affairs. As a senator since 2013, he’s had more exposure to foreign affairs and issues related to China.   

Senator Booker’s approach to China is similar to that of many other Democratic candidates in handling U.S.-China relations. The core of Booker’s position involves finding international allies to form a negotiation bloc to deal with China. At the 3rd Democrat Candidate Debate on September 12th, 2019, Booker admonished Trump’s “America first” policy, calling it an “America isolated, an America alone policy”. Booker disagreed with Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on U.S. allies while engaging in a trade war with China. He has not made formal statements regarding his opinion of the tariffs placed on China.  

During the fifth Democratic debate, Booker emphasized the US’ need to oppose China and stop the spread of China’s authoritarian governance model, saying that the US must work with allies to curb China’s malfeasance and promote human rights and democracy. Booker specifically called out China’s “breaking international rules, is practicing unfair practices, stealing technology, forcing technology transfer, and violating human rights.” He also condemned President Trump’s “transactional” foreign policy, saying that US foreign policy must adhere to “American values.” Booker concluded his remarks by stating that he would “call out” China’s human rights violations and “begin to check China” through policy driven by “the values of freedom and democracy.”

Booker also believes that the United States must protect human rights around the world, mentioning that as President, human rights would be the focus of the conversation with China. In response to a series of questions by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Booker recalls his sponsorship of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in the Senate. This act requires reports on China’s treatment of Uyghur people to determine if Chinese government individuals meet the criteria for the US to impose sanctions according to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Booker also said that, as President, he would insist China honor its commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy.  

 Booker had previously admonished China’s trade practices and foreign economic policies in his 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign. Booker accused China of cheating, stealing intellectual property, engaging in the forced transfer of technology, and subsidizing domestic industries to undercut foreign producers. However, Booker also states that, despite its unfair practices, he will commit to working with China. The specifics of his policy are unclear, but Booker seems willing to negotiate and work with China to reach a compromise on trade issues.