Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

China committee debuts with eye on major policy shifts

- By Kevin Freking

WASHINGTON >> A special House committee dedicated to countering China was making its debut on Tuesday, the opening act in what lawmakers hope will be a robust effort to overcome partisan divisions and address a “generation­al challenge” to America’s national security.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., says he’s looking to bridge difference­s rather than exploit them. One of the former Marine’s first efforts in that regard will be a hearing focused on informing Americans about what he says is the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Gallagher has grand visions for the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. He hopes it can shepherd competing bills over the finish line during the next two years and issue a set of recommenda­tions on long-term policies.

But as the committee was to hold its first hearing Tuesday evening in prime time, his first mission will be to communicat­e to Americans what is at stake.

“We’re doing some levelsetti­ng here: Why should someone care about the threat posed by the CCP?” Gallagher said. “Or to put it differentl­y, what did we get wrong about the Chinese Communist Party and what do we need to get right about it so as to have a more successful and enduring strategy going forward?”

So far, Gallagher appears to have Democratic buy-in and support. The vote to create the committee was bipartisan, 365-65.

‘Area of unity’

Opponents on the Democratic side largely voiced the concern that the committee could stir an even greater rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Gallagher said he is committed to ensuring the focus is on the Chinese Communist Party, not on the people of China.

“We want to lead with that sort of human rights focused, values-focused agenda,” Gallagher said. “And that’s an area of unity, too, for a lot of Democrats and Republican­s.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoo­rthi, D-Ill., the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the CCP is counting on lawmakers to be “fractious, divided, partisan and we have to do the opposite.”

“We have no choice but to rise to the challenge at this point. It’s that serious,” Krishnamoo­rthi said.

Rep. Ro Khanna of California, another Democrat on the committee, said he expects Gallagher will set a sobering tone.

“The hope is that Congress can still rise to a generation­al challenge, and that is getting our China policy correct,” Khanna said. “And there are areas that can be bipartisan, from bringing good jobs back to making sure we’re deterring any invasion in the Taiwan Strait.”

The witnesses for Tuesday’s hearing include two former advisers to President Donald Trump: Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser who resigned immediatel­y after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrecti­on at the U.S. Capitol; and H.R. McMaster, who was national security adviser from February 2017 to April 2018.

McMaster is no stranger to testifying about the threats he sees from China. He has warned Congress that the U.S. clung too long to the idea that China would liberalize its economy and form of governance as it was welcomed into internatio­nal systems like the World Trade Organizati­on.

He has recommend the U.S. not engage in trade or investment that transfers sensitive technology the CCP can use to gain military and economic advantages. He also has testified the U.S. should not do business in China in a way that helps the CCP stifle freedom and perfect its technology­enabled police state.

‘The baby dragon’

Tong Yi, a Chinese human rights advocate, was to amplify those concerns at the hearing. She was arrested in the 1990s after serving as an interprete­r to a leading dissident who had urged the U.S. to condition trade on China’s human rights performanc­e. She spent nine months in detention before being handed a two-and-half year sentence for “disturbing social order” and sent to a labor camp, where she said authoritie­s organized other inmates to beat her up.

“In the U.S., we need to face the fact that we have helped feed the baby dragon of the CCP until it has grown into what it now is,” she said in prepared remarks provided to The Associated Press. “Since the 1990s, U.S. companies have enriched themselves by exploiting cheap labor in China and have, in the process, also enriched the CCP.”

Scott Paul, president of an alliance formed by some manufactur­ing companies and the United Steelworke­rs labor union, will testify that “51 years of wishful thinking by American leaders” has failed to alter the dynamic that the CCP represents a “clear and present danger to the American worker, our innovation base, and our national security.”

The reaction to a suspected Chinese spy balloon in the U.S. earlier this month demonstrat­es the political tightrope that lawmakers will walk to prevent the committee from becoming a dividing force rather than a uniting one. Republican­s were highly critical of the Biden administra­tion for not shooting down the balloon days earlier than it did, while Democrats defended Biden and stressed that he followed the military’s recommenda­tion on when to take it down.

Gallagher said he suspects there are at least 10 pieces of legislatio­n that the committee can endorse in a bipartisan fashion. Still, he said the members will be looking for support from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy before it backs any legislatio­n.

One of the biggest challenges is that jurisdicti­on over the issues involving China is spread across numerous committees and members of those committees will want a say.

“I think we can play a constructi­ve coordinati­ng function between the committees to ensure that good ideas don’t die just because of some committee’s cracks or they get referred to multiple committees,” Gallagher said.

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