Bipartisan U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Leader: Major anti-China bill to be considered as soon as mid-April

Leaders of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said lawmakers from both parties are now actively working on a bill designed to launch a full-scale competition with China, a major China-related legislative measure that is expected to enter committee consideration as soon as mid-April and could come to a quick Senate vote by the end of April.

The legislative plan indicates that both Democrats and Republicans in the new Congress will continue the previous administration’s hard-line stance against Beijing.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday (March 17) at a hearing on the U.S.-China strategic competition that he expects the major China-related legislation to be on the committee’s agenda for consideration and vote in mid-April.

“I have agreed to set the markup session for April 14, and it is important that we complete the text of the bill during the recess and give other committee members an opportunity to review it during the calendar,” Menendez said at the hearing, adding, “I expect that the text of the bill will represent a common bipartisan direction on China. Members will also have the opportunity to make changes to the bill by offering amendments.”

The bill can be sent to the House floor for a vote after it passes out of committee. The bill must then be passed by the House before it is sent to the White House for President Biden to sign into law. Democrats currently control both chambers of Congress, and the bill is not expected to face much resistance when it is formally introduced.

In February, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he had directed the relevant committees to draft a major legislative measure to increase U.S. independence and competitiveness in the areas of technology, trade and commerce, while countering China’s international influence.

The bill has not yet been formally introduced. However, congressional staffers responsible for drafting and familiarizing themselves with the contents of the draft told Voice of America on condition of anonymity that the contents of the bill are still under discussion and are expected to be completed by the end of March.

The Biden Administration has reversed a number of policies enacted by former President Trump in the nearly two months since he took office. However, the administration has not made major reversals on China, replacing them with a comprehensive reassessment of a range of relations with Beijing.

A White House official said Biden will continue to be in close contact with congressional Democratic leaders about future legislative measures.

In contrast to the low profile of the executive branch, both parties in Congress have been working non-stop to introduce a succession of different legislative measures each week, all aimed at China. On Capitol Hill in Washington, “outcompete China” was clearly one of the few key words that could rally the consensus of the deeply divided Democratic and Republican parties.

Combining Democratic Allies Against “Strategic Competitors”

“Strategic rival” is almost unquestionably the bipartisan answer to how Congress currently characterizes the U.S.-China bilateral relationship.

Menendez said at Wednesday’s hearing that the evolution of Washington and Beijing to their current state is the result of policy choices China has made over the years.

“I think there’s no question that the right basic framework for the U.S.-China relationship today is ‘strategic competition,’ not because we necessarily want it, but as a result of choices that Beijing has made,” Menendez said, adding, “We have to clearly and soberly see Beijing’s intentions and actions, and adjust our policies and strategies accordingly.”

“The United States needs a whole new strategic framework to compete with, and a new set of organizing principles to meet the challenges of this new era,” Menendez continued.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, also echoed Menendez’s words at the hearing.

“As most of us have recognized in recent years, strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China must be the number one priority of U.S. foreign policy, and the challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party is imminent and we must act accordingly,” Sen. Risch said.

Menendez also mentioned that a central element of the new foreign relations doctrine is to enlist a united front of like-minded allies to cooperate.

Earlier this month, Menendez and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, led a group of lawmakers to introduce a cross-party bill designed to help the United States build international partnerships in emerging technologies to compete with China in an allied manner.

The Democracy Technology Partnership Act (DTPA) would establish an interagency office at the State Department to coordinate partnerships between the United States and other democracies on emerging technologies, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G, and semiconductor industry research and standards development.

In addition, the bill would establish a $5 billion International Technology Partnership Fund to help support joint research projects among democracies as well as academia and industry. The bill also calls for the development of strategies to seek alternatives to the purchase of technology from authoritarian regimes.

Overall, the legislative measure is designed to combine the cooperation of democracies in the field of technology and to counter the threat from China. Six bipartisan heavyweights have co-sponsored the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-FL), Sen. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“Belt and Road Infiltration in Western Hemisphere Raises Bipartisan Concerns

In addition to actively pursuing a cooperative front with democratic countries, lawmakers from both parties are also eagerly seeking to strengthen U.S. relations with countries in Latin America, and the extent to which China’s “Belt and Road” initiative has penetrated several countries in Latin America raises deep bipartisan concerns.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a Democrat from New Hampshire, told a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday that 25 of 35 Latin American countries have Chinese infrastructure projects and 19 countries have joined the Belt and Road Initiative. . She further mentioned that China has provided more than $120 million in aid to Latin American countries in the fight against the new Epidemic and that China aims to provide $250 billion in loans to Latin America by 2025. In addition to this, China has held at least 44 head of state meetings with Latin American countries since 2015.

“Clearly, they are moving into Europe and into Latin America in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, they have significant diplomatic and economic assistance throughout Latin America,” Shaheen said at the hearing.

Dr. Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the American Foreign Policy Association, called on the U.S. government to create a vision of purpose, in addition to the need to develop policies to counter China.

“We have to have our own vision, we have to know what we want the United States to look like in the world in the future, like what the world will look like in 2049, and then we have to build a plan from there and work with our allies to achieve that vision,” Dr. Economy said at the hearing.

Otherwise we’re going to end up responding to 1,000 different initiatives from China in the future,” she continued. So even though it’s about competing strategically with China, it should really be about finding out exactly what the United States wants the world to look like in 2050 and how we’re going to get there, and I think that’s how we’re going to solve the problem.”