Senate panel greenlights sweeping China policy bill

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday greenlighted sweeping legislation to push back on China on a number of issues, including human rights and economic competition.

The 21-1 panel vote sends The Strategic Competition Act to the floor for a full chamber vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) cast the lone vote opposing the legislation.

“There has been no shortage of discussion in recent years about the need to reimagine our nation’s competitive posture towards China. There has, however, been a lack of results — until today. With this overwhelming bipartisan vote, the Strategic Competition Act becomes the first of what we hope will be a cascade of legislative activity for our nation to finally meet the China challenge across every dimension of power, political, diplomatic, economic, innovation, military and even cultural,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the Foreign Relations chair.

“From the beginning, I have said that any China legislation needs to be strong, actionable, and truly bipartisan. I believe the package we passed out of committee today meets those criteria,” added Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho), the committee’s top Republican.

The bill would implement a slew of investments, including $655 million in Foreign Military Financing funding for the Indo-Pacific region and $450 million for the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative. It also expands the powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyzes international financial transactions in an effort to pick up on any national security risks.

The legislation also designates $10 million for the State Department to promote democracy in Hong Kong and includes several measures to boost the defense capabilities of Taiwan. 

The legislation’s passage comes as the relationship between Washington and Beijing grows increasingly strained. The U.S. has lambasted China over cyber attacks and intellectual property theft, human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang Province and crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Washington earlier this month also issued new guidance on for government talks with Taiwan. China considers the autonomous island to be its sovereign territory and has increased its military activity in the Taiwan Strait and through Taiwan’s air defense ID zone, a development the Biden administration said this week it is monitoring.

Lawmakers touted the bipartisan nature of the vote Wednesday but maintained the bill alone is insufficient to significantly alter China’s behavior. 

“I don’t believe anyone would think that this legislation is going to change China’s march toward a global hegemony of autocracy and repression,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), adding “I would suggest we have a lot more work to do.”

Tags Bob Menendez China Foreign relations of China Foreign relations of the United States Jim Risch Mitt Romney Rand Paul Taiwan–United States relations
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