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China committee eyes supply chain, biotech as Moolenaar takes helm

The panel backs legislation to prohibit U.S. investment in Chinese tech and defense companies while tracking the nation’s foreign election influence

Michigan Republican Rep. John Moolenaar now leads the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.
Michigan Republican Rep. John Moolenaar now leads the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House select committee on U.S.-China competition, freshly under new leadership, is training its sights on a range of tech, defense, economic and foreign policy issues on the heels of a major victory on the bill to force the divestiture of TikTok.

Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., last week left Congress and stepped down as chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. His replacement as chair, Michigan Republican Rep. John Moolenaar, said in a statement on Monday that he will focus on preventing “the CCP from stealing our technology, co-opting businesses, and harassing people on American soil.” 

“We will examine the most critical areas of our supply chain so we can reduce our dependence on the CCP,” Moolenaar said. 

Legislative measures that the committee is championing now need to be shepherded through relevant congressional committees, Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat on the panel, said in an interview. 

“There are a lot of ongoing issues that pop up that require the kind of focus that this committee has helped to bring,” Krishnamoorthi said, emphasizing the need for the committee to continue its work. “We work very closely with our sister committees and the committees of jurisdiction, but I think we’re able to elevate the importance of some of these issues and raise their profile enough to get attention and action.” 

The stand-alone bill forcing TikTok owner ByteDance to divest the app or face a ban in the United States went from introduction by Gallagher, Krishnamoorthi and others to a committee markup and House passage in about a week. That original bill passed the House with overwhelming support, was modified by Speaker Mike Johnson as part of a national security supplemental and was signed by President Joe Biden last week. 

Krishnamoorthi said another measure championed by the committee that targets the practices of specific companies should be a “no-brainer bill.” The measure would ban federal research funds going to U.S. companies that in turn hire Chinese biotech companies, including MGI, Complete Genomics, WuXi AppTec, and BGI Group and its subsidiaries. 

While BGI and MGI are closely linked with the Chinese Communist Party, WuXi has transferred “intellectual property without consent” to Beijing, Krishnamoorthi said. 

The committee also is pushing for legislation that would prohibit U.S. investment firms from funneling money into Chinese tech and defense companies and is closely examining China’s propaganda efforts in foreign elections, including Taiwan’s, Krishnamoorthi said. 

“We had a hearing on what’s called discourse warfare, which is another term that the Chinese use for propaganda,” Krishnamoorthi said. “That came after the Taiwan elections, and what we’ve heard in Taiwan is that they are deeply concerned about it … and we have to keep a close eye on this” in light of the upcoming U.S. election, he said.  

Guiding other committees

The committee has served a key role in highlighting the “full scope of the challenge with China, including everything from technology to defense, to influence operations and foreign policy,” Elizabeth Hoffman, director of congressional and government affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview.  

The committee was created by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy in January 2023, drawing rare bipartisan support in an otherwise divided chamber. Whether the committee will be extended in the next Congress isn’t clear.

Hoffman said the next speaker, whether Republican or Democrat, would likely keep it around, as it’s “been a center for bipartisanship” that has helped lawmakers get a “360-degree picture of the challenge posed by China, which is very valuable to other congressional committees.” 

Lawmakers on other panels have come to rely on the findings of the China committee in crafting their own legislation. 

Virginia Republican Rep. Rob Wittman, who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, said in an interview that he considers the recommendations focused on deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan to be one of the select committee’s biggest accomplishments.

Much of the “Ten for Taiwan” report by the select committee was included in the fiscal 2024 policy measure for the Pentagon, including recommendations to bolster joint training between U.S. and Taiwanese military forces and improving congressional oversight of the multibillion-dollar foreign military sales backlog for Taipei. 

The recommendations of the select committee “continue to direct and inform efforts by the Armed Services Committee on subsequent policy that needs to occur to make sure that we’re addressing those Ten for Taiwan issues,” Wittman said. “So I think that while we don’t have to come up with another set of recommendations, I think that the impact of those recommendations will be seen again this year in the formulation and passage of the NDAA.” 

Wittman said he expects Moolenaar to focus on supply chain security in the energy sector and in areas involving critical minerals and rare earth elements. 

Moolenaar introduced a bill last fall seeking to bar companies with ties to the Chinese Communist Party from receiving green energy production tax benefits. The legislation is co-sponsored by more than three dozen House Republicans. 

“Essentially, the things that we’re trying to do to diversify our energy production here should not be done in ways that have direct benefits to China,” Wittman said. 

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