New House committee focus raises concerns of aggressive competition

By HENG WEILI in New York and YIFAN XU in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-16 09:48

With the creation of the committee, which has broad bipartisan support, the new US House of Representatives appears determined to increase political pressure on Beijing, raising concerns from some policy experts and politicians.

The House voted 365 to 65 on Tuesday in favor of a resolution to establish the Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, which would make policy recommendations.

“I don’t think it will change US policy towards China. I think it will be hot air coming out of the committee,” Saurabh Gupta, a Washington-based senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, told China Daily.

An unorganized party

“The Republican Party, as we’ve seen, is very disorganized at the moment. So it’s looking for common ground. And one of the common areas, there’s a common point of view in the Republican Party, on China, and that’s why they were able to get the Select Committee out so quickly.”

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All 65 “no” votes came from Democrats, some of whom expressed concern that the Republican-led committee would be too partisan.

But 146 other Democrats voted in favor, including new House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, which has a large Chinese population.

“When the Republicans tried to do this two years ago, the Democrats backed away from it, and the Democrats and the Biden administration have been soft on China,” Gupta said.

“So we’ll have to see, but my view is that this will not lead to any change in US policy.”

Daniel Larrison, an antiwar.com columnist, wrote on January 9 that the two major US political parties would unite around an aggressive posture.

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“There are differences between the major parties, which is a difference in rhetoric and emphasis, not a fundamental difference on the essence of policy,” he said.

Potential conflict

World Politics Review Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein said on January 6 that the result of US policy is that competition and potential conflict are now considered the “default position of relations” with China.

“What is striking is that this approach is now so entrenched that its premises are no longer examined or debated,” he wrote.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy insisted the committee is not biased.

He said the committee would address issues such as bringing jobs back to America from China, securing intellectual property and bringing supply chains back to the country.

But some Democrats expressed concern that the committee was biased.

Representative Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, told CNN that the select committee was “another sham attempt.”

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“It is really clear that this is a committee that is only promoting anti-Asian rhetoric and hatred and putting lives at risk,” he said.

Judy Chu, Democrat of California and chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus, said on the House floor: “This committee cannot be used to promote policies that lead to the racial profiling of Asian Americans, but must focus on specific concerns directly related to the government of the People’s Republic of China.”

Gupta said the subcommittee ultimately won’t have much control over U.S. policy toward China.

He doesn’t believe the House Select Committee will be able to “create consensus or unanimity on China,” and in fact boils down to “really partisan insults and hot air” directed at China.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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