U.S. lawmakers this week are launching a two-year effort to address strategic competition between the United States and China, with a prime-time hearing set for Tuesday that will include testimony from human rights activists and members of former President Donald Trump’s national security team.
Representative Mike Gallagher, who will chair the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition with China, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” earlier this week, “We may call this a strategic competition, but it’s not a tennis match. This is about what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in Xinjiang-lite, or do we want to live in the free world?”
He was characterizing Beijing’s treatment of the minority Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang province.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi will serve as the top Democrat on the committee, which has been described by many of its 24 members as a serious opportunity for bipartisan cooperation.
While the first hearing will focus on security concerns, the committee’s work is expected to address a wide range of issues in the relationship – from economic and agricultural competition to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Committee member Republican Representative Dusty Johnson recently told VOA the U.S.-China relationship is often compared incorrectly to the Cold War between the United States and the then-Soviet Union.
“It’s a very different environment,” Johnson said in an interview earlier in February. “We didn’t need to in a targeted way decouple our economy from that of the Soviet Union’s. The Soviet Union was a one-dimensional threat. It was a military threat. The Chinese Communist Party is a threat in a much more comprehensive way.”
While they were in the minority in the 117th Congress, Republicans formed a China Task Force. This bipartisan group of lawmakers said they will pursue their efforts with a spirit of cooperation.
Johnson said several themes emerged from the committee’s first planning meeting.
“Number one, our work should be bipartisan. Number two, that the Chinese people are the primary victims of the pattern of aggression from the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese people are not an adversary,” he said.
The recent U.S. shootdown of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the South Carolina coast focused the attention of the American public on security concerns posed by China.
“It actually has elevated the formation — the reasons for the formation of the committee,” Republican Representative Dan Newhouse, a committee member, told VOA, adding that it was important to understand China’s pattern of behavior and what the U.S. should do to deter any potential action. “We need to be smart, smarter; we need to be wired, our eyes wide open about what’s going on in the world as it relates to China.”
Newhouse is a co-sponsor of legislation addressing concerns China is buying up U.S. agricultural land.
“These trends are concerning — that potentially our supply chain as it relates to our production of food is being compromised, that we’re losing control, that we’re ceding a very important aspect of our security,” Newhouse said, adding concerns that the U.S. is ceding that control to a nation that is “not someone that has demonstrated to us that deserves the same amount of trust as some of our other trading partners.”
Democratic Representative Andre Carson, who also serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told VOA that the surveillance balloons will keep security concerns at the forefront of their work. But the committee also plans to dig into other areas of strategic competition.
“We have to explore the production of semiconductors and how our allies are now working with us to thwart China’s expansion efforts,” said Carson. “And I think we have to look at ways in which our supply chain is compromised in this process.”
Carson also expressed concern about China’s investments in U.S. companies and fronting businesses in Indiana, the industrial Midwest and other places.
The committee is considering hearings outside Capitol Hill for a firsthand look at possible threats to critical infrastructure. Carson, however, emphasized the tone of the committee’s work is also important and will be heard around the country.
“We want to make sure without increasing anti-discrimination against Asian Americans in the process … that we are strengthening our national security apparatus, while at the same time we were not fanning the flames of xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment,” he said.