U.S. Senate Actively Promotes China Bill, Adds Motion to Provide Asylum for Hong Kong People, Prevent Chinese Theft

The U.S. Senate this week debated a bill to launch an all-out competition with China, with several lawmakers offering a number of amendments aimed at boosting investment in U.S. technology industries while preventing China from stealing U.S. intellectual property. Members of both parties also offered amendments to formally include refugee asylum for oppressed Hong Kong residents in the bill’s discussion. Meanwhile, House Republicans sent a joint letter to Democratic leaders calling for bipartisanship in the House on a bill to address the China challenge as soon as possible.

Providing Asylum for Hong Kong People

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, led a bipartisan group of committee members on Thursday (May 20) to introduce an amendment to include refugee protection for people in Hong Kong who are oppressed or may be under threat in the Strategic Competition Act, which is currently being considered by the full House. Act.

Derived from the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, the amendment would ensure that Hong Kong residents with a well-founded fear of persecution would be eligible to apply for asylum in the United States as a “second preference” to escape the oppression of the Hong Kong version of the National Security Act.

The amendment is currently co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).

“As we continue to discuss how best to restructure and reorient U.S. policy toward China, we cannot ignore the need for America’s moral obligation to the people of Hong Kong,” Menendez, of New Jersey, said in a statement, “I am honored to work with my colleagues to make our policy based on our values that clearly demonstrate our commitment to providing sanctuary to democracy activists, human rights activists, journalists and other Hong Kong citizens who are being targeted for trumped-up charges of incitement and national security violations.”

Senator Rubio, who worked with Menendez on the bill of the same name in the last Congress, also said in a statement, “Just as the Chinese Communist Party and government continue to crack down on Hong Kong’s pan-democratic leaders and activists, we must ensure that we do all we can to provide a safe haven for those threatened by Chinese Communist persecution.”

In addition to providing refugee asylum to Hong Kong residents, the SCA now includes amendments to provide “second priority” refugee asylum for Uighurs and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang who are also subject to human rights abuses.

The Strategic Competition Act, drafted by the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), is the first major congressional blueprint to address U.S. diplomatic, economic, and human rights challenges to China since the Biden Administration took office and announced a comprehensive competition with Beijing.

House Republican Leaders Push Legislation to Fight China

Fourteen Republican leaders of different House committees sent a letter Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urging Democrats in control of the House to quickly to take legislative action as soon as possible to prioritize a bill to enhance U.S. competitiveness against China.

The letter, issued by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Ranking Republican Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), who leads the other committees, underscores the urgent need for bipartisan action on the part of Congress to address the growing threat to Washington from Beijing on all fronts.

“Addressing the generational threat posed by China’s Communist Party is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, it is an American issue,” the Republican lawmakers wrote in the joint letter. “At a time when Congress is considering how to act to strategically compete with China, we write to urge you to advance the House measure on the legislation under normal procedures.”

In their letter, the lawmakers also mentioned that there is active debate on the Senate side on China-related bills, and they called on the House to act as quickly as possible as well. “We are pleased to see the Senate working to discuss ways to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s threat to the critical link between our technological competitiveness, economic growth and national security,” the lawmakers said in their letter.

Endless Frontier Act Renamed the American Innovation and Competition Act

In addition to the Strategic Competition Act, the letter from House Republican leaders includes the Endless Frontier Act, also introduced by members of the Senate from both parties.

The Endless Frontier Act was formally changed to the US Innovation and Competition Act by Senate Majority Leader Schumer earlier this week, after incorporating several amendments. Compared to the Strategic Competition Act, which sets the course and provides resources for U.S. foreign, economic and human rights policies to counter Beijing, the US Innovation and Competition Act focuses on injecting large investments into U.S. critical technology research and development, supply chain production and other areas to strengthen U.S. domestic infrastructure and advanced technology.

“This is something that we’re all trying to work together on a bipartisan basis, and at the end of the day, every member, I believe we all want to see the United States remain a global economic leader in the 21st century, and we all want to see the United States remain number one in science and technology,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in his floor speech Thursday, and he called for bipartisan support for the bill.

“It’s so important, for the sake of our jobs, our economic security, our national security, that we have a very rare opportunity to outperform the rest of the world in innovation, production and competition in all areas of industry in the future.”

The American Innovation and Competition Act incorporates a key amendment that will inject $52 billion in investment in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, packaging and advanced research and development to achieve the goals of the Chip for America Act (CHIPS for America Act), passed by Congress late last year to assist in the return of semiconductor manufacturing to U.S. soil.

Faced with the dilemma of a global semiconductor shortage that erupted from last year to this year, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a Democratic U.S. senator, said the bill, with the inclusion of relevant amendments, would emphasize multilateral efforts with trading partners while competing with China, which lacks transparency and does not meet market conduct norms.

“It will ensure that we act in concert with our allies on supply chain security and integrity, both domestically and internationally,” Warner said Thursday in a floor speech on the House floor.

The Senate debate on the American Innovation and Competition Act comes as the U.S. faces a decline in research and development and advanced manufacturing, including advanced chip manufacturing. U.S. production of semiconductors and microelectronics has fallen from 37 percent in 1990 to 12 percent today. At the same time, the Chinese government has pledged to invest a robust $150 billion in related industries, with the goal of reaching at least 70 percent semiconductor self-production by 2030.

The new amendments to the American Innovation and Competition Act would also provide funding for the Utilizing Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act, which would provide alternatives to Western products for U.S. suppliers currently using Chinese equipment such as Huawei and ZTE. The lawmakers argued that the Chinese companies’ ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the large subsidies they receive from the Communist regime would pose a serious risk to U.S. national security and the integrity of global information networks.

“Counterintelligence Review Program” to Prevent Chinese Theft

While the bipartisan focus on investment in key U.S. industries continues, Senator Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced a new amendment Thursday to prevent China from stealing U.S. technology research and development.

The amendment proposed by Rubio has now received support from all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The amendment would establish a “counterintelligence screening process” (counterintelligence screening process) to protect the United States from adversaries, including China, that engage in espionage and theft of U.S. intellectual property, research and development and innovation efforts.

Rubio has spoken repeatedly before the House, expressing doubts about the industrial investment bill under discussion. He argued that the original bill’s content lacked provisions to protect the fruits of U.S. research and development. “This amendment would provide meaningful and necessary protections to help protect critical U.S. research, intellectual property and innovation. You don’t need to see highly classified documents to know that the threat is real, as the FBI and others have publicly stated,” Rubio said in a statement.

The amendment would require applicants receiving government investments under the American Innovation and Competition Act to be vetted for: disclosing foreign funding received in the past 10 years; financial or other in-kind support provided by entities owned or supported by China; and, whether they have participated in foreign government talent acquisition programs.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer said he plans to hold a vote on the bills in the full chamber next week.