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TradeTalk China: February 11 – 17, 2023
Friday, February 24, 2023

Hearings, Hearings, Hearings—Notable Discussions in Congress

  • U.S.-China trade issues. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Ending Trade that Cheats American Workers By Modernizing Trade Laws and Enforcement, Fighting Forced Labor, Eliminating Counterfeits, and Leveling the Playing Field” on February 16, lawmakers criticized China on a number of trade issues, including allegations of forced labor in China and enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA), the risk of counterfeit imports, and intellectual property theft.

  • U.S.-China strategic competition. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) met on February 15 to hear perspectives on global security challenges that included testimony from Dr. Bonny Lin, the director of the China Power Project and a senior fellow on Asian Security at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. In her testimony, Dr. Lin highlighted the nature of the Chinese challenge and efforts the U.S. undertaking to address concerns. SASC Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) probed China’s reaction to Russian aggression in Ukraine, to which Dr. Lin noted China initially took a pro-Russia approach but has shifted its calculus to salvage its deteriorating relationship with European countries—critical to its ability to economically “reopen” and recover after COVID. She specifically cited that this shift resulted from scrutiny of Chinese companies providing support to Russia, such as surveillance equipment. During the hearing, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced she would lead a CODEL to Indonesia and Japan to discuss energy security, economic engagement, and the role of multilateral partnerships and agreements in countering “malign” Chinese Communist Party activities.

  • Narcotics. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a February 15 hearing on “Countering Illicit Fentanyl Trafficking,” during which some senators criticized the Biden administration for not pressing China to stop the outflow of fentanyl precursors. SFRC Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) called for the imposition of sanctions on China if steps are not taken to impose restrictions on China’s “chemical and pharmaceutical industries supplying the Mexican cartels that are flooding the United States with fentanyl.”

Deputy Secretary of State Outlines U.S. Approach to China

During a think tank event on February 15, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman discussed areas of tension with China and opportunities for cooperation.

  • Tension: Deputy Secretary Sherman stated that the State Department will continue work to stop China from using U.S. technology for military purposes, emphasizing the importance of a safe semiconductor and critical mineral supply chain. On issues related to Taiwan, Deputy Secretary Sherman urged international partners to express disapproval for any unilateral action that disturbs peace in the Taiwan Strait, expressing hope that China would not use visits by members of Congress to Taiwan as pretext for military action, emphasizing that U.S. policy on Taiwan has not changed. 

  • Cooperation: Deputy Secretary Sherman urged the U.S. to continue to maintain open lines of communication with China and claimed the State Department is ready to work with China on issues such as climate change and global health.

Notable Quotables

  • 2024 Ahead: 2024 Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in a speech launching her campaign called China the “strongest and most disciplined enemy” the U.S. has ever faced, adding “China’s dictators want to cover the world in communist tyranny, and we are the only ones who can stop them.”

  • House China Select Committee: House China Select Committee Chair Mike Gallagher (R-WI) said the Committee is expected to soon announce that its first hearing will be held on February 28, in which senior officials from previous administrations will testify about where and how the U.S. got the China problem wrong for so long.

  • CODEL to Taiwan: Rep. Rob Wittman (D-VA) on a potential House Select Committee on China CODEL to Taiwan: “We know that will infuriate the Chinese. But I think it’s incredibly important for us to do that, because you have to send the signal that we’re strongly on the side of Taiwan.”

  • Democrats on China: On translating bipartisan concerns about China into legislation, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, “The worst mistake we could make is for our China positioning to be dictated by the House of Representatives. There aren’t a lot of thoughtful policy makers over there. We should make our own policy.”

  • Hong Kong: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) Certification Act: “As China continues to undermine Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy, we must ensure that if Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices no longer merit diplomatic immunities, their privileges are revoked.”

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