A veteran foreign service officer, Linda Thomas-Greenfield will face tough questions on Tuesday in her confirmation hearing for America's ambassador to the United Nations on whether she'll counter China's authoritarian agenda and engage in "people-to-people diplomacy."
In prepared remarks, Thomas-Greenfield speaks of China's diplomatic inroads during the Trump administration, which pursued an "America First" policy that weakened international alliances. And she makes clear there will be a change under President Joe Biden to reengaging internationally and promoting American values, according to excerpts of her Wednesday testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee obtained by The Associated Press.
"When America shows up — when we are consistent and persistent — when we exert our influence in accordance with our values — the United Nations can be an indispensable institution for advancing peace, security, and our collective well-being," she says.
Alluding to the absence of US global leadership during Donald Trump's four-year presidency, Thomas-Greenfield says: "If instead we walk away from the table, and allow others to fill the void, the global community suffers — and so do American interests."
She then turns to China, which has become a major player on the global stage in recent years and much more outspoken on a range of global issues at the United Nations and elsewhere. Beijing also has come under sharp criticism from the US and many other nations for its treatment of more than 1 million Uighurs and members of other Chinese Muslim minority groups and for its delayed announcement of COVID-19, which was first diagnosed Wuhan.
"We know China is working across the UN system to drive an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution — American values," Thomas-Greenfield says. "Their success depends on our continued withdrawal. That will not happen on my watch."
If confirmed by the Senate, Thomas-Greenfield would be neither the first African American nor the first woman, nor even the first African American woman, to serve as US ambassador to the United Nations. But she is a groundbreaking diplomat nonetheless.
She joined the State Department more than three decades ago, when Black women were even more of a rarity in the US diplomatic corps than they are today, and she is the most experienced diplomat of the six people named by Biden for top national security positions.
"Throughout my career, from Jamaica to Nigeria, Pakistan to Switzerland, I've learned that effective diplomacy means more than shaking hands and staging photo ops," Thomas-Greenfield says in her prepared remarks.
"It means developing real, robust relationships," she says. "It means finding common ground and managing points of differentiation. It means doing genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy."
Thomas-Greenfield stresses that American leadership must be rooted in the country's core values — "support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security." She says she also will back reforms that make the UN "efficient and effective" and promises to develop "a strong partnership" with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
By Edith M. Lederer/AP
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.