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US House votes to set up committee to counter China

US House votes to set up committee to counter China thumbnail

WASHINGTON ?- The United States House of Representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of setting up a congressional committee on countering China, with lawmakers stressing that Washington’s desire to confront Beijing was steadfastly bipartisan.

The creation of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party – as the panel is officially named – has been a goal of Republicans since 2020 and was the second measure passed by the House since Republicans took control.

It received plenty of Democrat support on Tuesday, with 146 Democrats, including House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, joining the Republicans to back the panel, in a rare show of cross-party cooperation in Congress.

“The danger posed by our dependence on China is dire,” said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a speech on the floor. “But here’s the good news: There is bipartisan consensus that the era of trusting communist China is over.”

The committee has been tasked with investigating and recommending policies to counter economic, technological and security challenges presented by China, and can hold public hearings on its investigations.

Washington has been pushing back against China in increasingly muscular ways, from rolling out chip export controls to undermine the Chinese semiconductor industry, to using strong rhetoric naming Beijing as its biggest geopolitical threat.

Among the committee’s priorities will be to look for ways to end America’s dependence on China for medical supplies and rare earth materials, and to scrutinise US investments in China.

The committee will also make the case for aiding Taiwan’s self-defence, beefing up America’s military might, and highlighting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) attempts at lobbying and intimidation in the US, Mr McCarthy and the committee’s chair Mike Gallagher wrote in December 2022 in a Fox News commentary.

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“To win the new Cold War, we must respond to Chinese aggression with tough policies to strengthen our economy, rebuild our supply chains, speak out for human rights, stand against military aggression, and end the theft of Americans’ personal information, intellectual property, and jobs,” they wrote.

Mr Gallagher echoed the same sentiments on Tuesday, saying: “The Select Committee will expose the CCP’s coordinated, whole-of-society strategy to undermine American leadership and sovereignty.”

Some Democrats expressed reservations about the panel, voicing concerns it might be too partisan or fuel anti-Asian attacks and xenophobia, and promote conspiracy theories, although a majority of Democrats supported it in the end.

The 16-member panel will consist of nine Republicans and seven Democrats, and can be reconvened even under future Congresses.

The next step will be to find “serious lawmakers on both sides” to sit on the panel, said Mr Gallagher, as Mr McCarthy stressed the panel was not for showboaters wanting to “go in and be viral to make some point”.

“The threat is too great for us to bicker with ourselves… this is an issue that transcends political parties,” said Mr McCarthy.

He added: “I want this committee to last beyond who’s in the majority and never, ever be decided that this is a partisan committee. You have my commitment.”

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