Republicans and Democrats were in bipartisan agreement Tuesday about establishing a special House committee that would focus on China, addressing a wide-ranging set of issues on trade, defense, foreign policy, technology and human rights.
“One of the greatest worries about the future is that we fall behind Communist China,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on the House floor. “We spent decades passing policies that welcomed China into the global system. In return, China has exported oppression, aggression, anti-Americanism.”
McCarthy in early December said he would establish the committee “to expose and fight against the Chinese Communist Party’s cyber, trade, and military threats against America.”
The House Tuesday easily adopted the resolution establishing the Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. The vote was 365-65, with more than 140 Democrats joining all the Republicans to support the measure.
But at least one Democrat also warned against turning the panel into a vehicle of “anti-Asian hate.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., has been selected to chair the 16-member committee. The Democrats would be able to choose seven of the members. The panel won’t have legislative jurisdiction but would have authority to conduct wide-ranging investigations and submit policy recommendations.
Gallagher said China’s economic and military rise posed a greater challenge to the U.S. than the Soviet Union in its heyday. The threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party is not “abstract” and not limited to Taiwan, Hong Kong and human-rights violations within the country’s Xinjiang province, home to Uighyurs, he said.
Gallagher said the committee would take up several recommendations from a 2020 report of the China Task Force led by Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and other Republicans. The task force was also established by McCarthy.
China’s Communist Party has “stolen American intellectual property, technology and industrial capacity, undermining our economy and good-paying jobs,” Gallagher said.
The committee will “expose the CCP’s coordinated whole-of-society strategy to undermine American leadership and American sovereignty while working on a bipartisan basis and with committees of jurisdiction,” Gallagher said. “I stress working on a bipartisan basis because that’s the only way we are going to be successful over the long-term.”
Democrats also cautioned that the panel not turn into an exercise in bashing Chinese people and Asian-Americans.
While supporting the committee’s creation, “many of us have concerns about this turning into a committee that focuses on pushing Republican conspiracy theories and partisan talking points,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said. “We certainly don’t want it to turn into a place that perpetuates anti-Asian hate.”
McGovern cited the example of former President Donald Trump mislabeling COVID-19 by tying it to Chinese people, a comment McGovern said led to incidents of violence against Asian Americans.
McCarthy said he had similar concerns about the committee turning into promoting unproven theories and reassured Democrats that the committee would not resort to such tactics.