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Still Waiting For A “Tough on China” Bill

China poses the most significant foreign challenge to the United States in the 21st century.

Its economic and military capacity surpasses that of other rival powers, and the country’s Communist rulers have shown a repeated interest in using that capacity aggressively at the expense of other countries, including ours.

Rising to the challenge must be a priority of the Federal Government. There is no reason why it cannot be a bipartisan priority, and Democrats and Republicans have worked together to address different aspects of China’s threat.

Unfortunately, a recent bill touted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as tough on China is anything but. Underneath the rhetoric of strategic competition is a slapdash partisan effort to advance progressive priorities, including many from the failed “Build Back Better” bill.

The Democrats labeled their bill the America COMPETES Act but filled its nearly 3,000 pages with wasteful spending, misplaced priorities, and provisions that will actually hurt our competitiveness with China and other countries.

The bill would cost $325 billion. That money is spent with considerable carelessness.

Supporters of the bill tout its provisions to boost semiconductor production, including $50 billion in subsidies. There is a shortage of semiconductors, but this $50 billion comes with no strings attached to prevent the money from going to China.

$8 billion would go to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations initiative that doles out money abroad with no accountability to American taxpayers. Among the fund’s previous “investments?” $100 million to China.

Solar panel production would receive $3 billion in support. China currently dominates the market for some components of solar panels and uses slave labor to produce them. As you might guess by now, the House bill does not include any safeguards to prevent taxpayer money from perpetuating China’s place in the solar panel supply chain.

Instead of China, climate change seems to be the bill’s major focus. In fact, it is mentioned 156 times in the text, deployed to justify provisions of the bill such as creating the role of “climate change officer” in the U.S. Foreign Service. At no point do these references to climate change add up to a plan to address the world’s biggest polluter – China.

The provisions that do aim at China are less than they appear. They frequently take the form of “the sense of Congress,” words that lack the force of law, and even these portions of the bill miss the mark.

One urges the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Games out of China. The House voted on the bill today, the same day the Games began.

Another part of the bill requires the Biden Administration to release a report on the origins of COVID-19. The Biden Administration released that report last August, and it was woefully insufficient. A provision that would have real meaning would require the Biden Administration to cooperate with the investigation I am conducting with other Energy and Commerce Republican leaders into COVID’s origins. Instead, the Biden Administration and its agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, drag their feet, and congressional Democrat leadership refuses to prod them along.

The Chinese Communist Party covered up the beginnings of a pandemic that spread across the world, oppresses its people, threatens its neighbors, steals our data, and undercuts our businesses. All these aspects of its character are understood by Democrats and Republicans.

We agree on many approaches to this challenge. In fact, we’ve advanced some of them recently. Congress passed and President Biden signed in December 2021 H.R. 6256, a bill I cosponsored restricting the importation of goods made by forced labor of the Uyghur minority population in China. Plenty of ideas for promoting our economic competitiveness and protecting critical industries from Chinese predation enjoy bipartisan support.

Congressional cooperation to push back against the Chinese Communist Party is achievable, but not when Speaker Pelosi puts together a 3,000-page bill in her office filled with her party’s priorities. Meeting the great challenge of the 21st century will be much more difficult with such leadership.

  • Congressman Morgan Griffith

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