Rift Emerges Between Biden’s View of Communist China and That of the House Select Committee

Biden is less worried that troubles at home will stay Xi Jinping’s appetite for war, while Gallagher warns that it could make the regime in Beijing ‘more risk acceptant.’

AP/Andy Wong, file
An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem at the Great Hall of the People at Beijing, November 9, 2017. AP/Andy Wong, file

A rift is emerging between the Biden administration’s view of Communist China and the view of the bipartisan select committee on China in the House of Representatives, which is meeting today at the Council on Foreign Relations at New York. 

Just this week, President Biden told reporters at a press conference in Vietnam that slowing Chinese economic growth and that country’s record-high youth unemployment rate renders an invasion of Taiwan less likely because President Xi “has his hands full right now.”

An opposite view is being expressed by Congressman Mike Gallagher, chairman of the select committee. “It’s equally as plausible that as China confronts serious economic demographic issues, Xi Jinping could get more risk acceptant and could get less predictable,” Mr. Gallagher said at the meeting. 

At a meeting hosted by the Council of Foreign Relations at New York City this week, members of the House select committee on the strategic competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party pushed for American divestment from the People’s Republic. It also pressed for stronger geopolitical partnerships to ward off Chinese economic and military aggression. 

The select committee, established in January with support from Democrats and Republicans in the House, aims to “develop a plan of action to defend the American people, our economy, and our values” from the threat of Communist China. The language is from the committee’s website

The meeting this week pressed for selective and strategic American decoupling from the world’s second-largest economy in order to halt the “totalitarian ambitions” of the Chinese Communist Party. “We should not be financing our own destruction,” Mr. Gallagher said. 

He argued that a successful grand strategy against Communist China requires America to flex both its soft and hard power muscles. Robust funding for modern warfare capabilities would serve as a credible military threat to supplement America’s strategy of “deterrence by denial,” he contended.

Mr. Gallagher and the ranking member of the committee, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, called for greater American support for Taiwan, pointing to potential “catastrophic” consequences of Chinese military force on the island.

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan could cost the global economy $1 trillion in the first few years by halting production by the world’s largest advanced chipmaker, the U.S. director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, estimated at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in May.

The record-high unemployment rate for youth in China, about which Mr. Gallagher expressed concern, recently came in at 21.3 percent. He argued that Russia’s war against Ukraine disclosed that world leaders should listen seriously to the threats of dictators.

Given this danger, Mr. Gallagher advocates for limiting both private and public investment in the forms of index funds, pension funds, and public company stock into Chinese military companies that build artillery shells, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets that could be used against America if the two nations were to go head-to-head. 

Communist China operates the world’s largest navy and second-largest air force, and the People’s Liberation Army has undergone the greatest military build-up since World War II. Meanwhile, the American Navy plans to decommission dozens of warships by 2027, the year by which Mr. Xi has stated he would take Taiwan. 

The committee members also rebuked Communist China’s leveraging of financial prowess to “coerce” American companies into investing in critical technology fueling Chinese intellectual theft and cyberhacking, as well as the “dystopian purpose” of surveilling millions of Uyghur Muslims in the province of Xinjiang amid the series of human rights abuses against the ethnic minority. 

Mr. Biden signed an executive order in August banning outbound investment to China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the industries of advanced computing chips and microelectronics, quantum technology, and artificial intelligence. Yet these restrictions on American capital entering the communist superpower might not be enough to ease the war of economic aggression between the two countries. 

“It’s in our interest to have America and our allies control the commanding heights of critical technology,” by way of finalizing export controls that “buy us time so that we can out innovate and out compete,” Mr. Gallagher said. “That’s our winning economic and technological strategy over the long term.” 

For American investors in China, “the risks range from having your asset seized in the event of the Taiwan conflict to owning variable interest entities for which there are no shareholder protections,” Mr. Krishna explained at the meeting.

Mr. Gallagher declared that “Congress needs to step up and legislate the issue” to give the country a sense of financial clarity as it makes the transition to what he calls “the new guardrail regime.” 

High-skilled immigration is also key to an American triumph in the economic competition with the People’s Republic, Mr. Krishnamoorthi asserted, noting the bipartisan interest in retaining and attracting top talent from across the world, including Chinese-American scholars, scientists, innovators, and industry leaders. 

“We should make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to come here illegally, and make it easy for people to come here legally,” Mr. Gallagher added.

Protecting American interests also requires stitching new multilateral alliances and closer partnerships with countries like India, which could potentially pressure Mr. Xi to adjust his gameplan, Mr. Krishnamoorthi suggested. 

Mr. Gallagher argued that Washington is failing to quell the emerging “axis of authoritarian powers,” dominated by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. “We need to build a stronger team to counter that axis,” he said, admonishing America’s failed pursuit of an engagement strategy for more than two decades. 

Disagreement between the two committee members emerged on the subject of America’s long-term geopolitical objectives, which Mr. Gallagher said should be to maintain American international primacy, for “a world in which America is the dominant superpower is a more peaceful and just world.” 

Meanwhile, Mr. Krishnamoorthi envisions “a rules-based international order,” referencing a U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, whose realist approach to foreign policy sought to establish economic rules of the road rather than enhance military aggression between America and its Cold War competitors. “We don’t resolve our differences anywhere except at a negotiating table,” Mr. Krishnamoorthi said.

Both committee members, though, agreed on the need for a crisis communication channel between Communist China and America to reduce the risk of miscalculation that could lead to a massive conflict between the two militaries.

The Biden administration has failed to accomplish this task even after four Cabinet-level official visits to Beijing, Mr. Gallagher tells the Sun. As a result, “we slow key defensive action,” such as ending the licensing exemptions for China’s Huawei Technologies or demanding transparency on this spy balloon incident and the origins of Covid. 

American competition with China has, though, brought on a kind of “Sputnik moment” at Washington, Mr. Krishnamoorthi said, referencing the sense of urgency on this issue shared by Republicans and Democrats in Congress. 

Still, leading nations might be underestimating the fraughtness of the current moment. “We started off talking about China as a ‘geopolitical threat’ and now it’s a ‘challenge’. We migrated from ‘selected decoupling’ to ‘de-risking’ to ‘diversifying,’” Mr. Gallagher tells the Sun, admonishing “the pernicious impact of language changing” as “Orwell’s first rule.” 

This is the “decisive decade,” he said at the meeting, calling the current moment “the window of maximum danger.” 


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