A brand new Home panel on U.S.-China relations held its first listening to in prime time on Tuesday evening, exploring threats posed by the Chinese language authorities and attainable bipartisan options.
4 witnesses — together with H.R. McMaster, former president Donald Trump’s nationwide safety adviser, and Tong Yi, a former secretary to outstanding Chinese language dissident Wei Jingsheng — spoke about points involving nationwide safety, financial competitors and human rights.
Over the course of three hours, they made a case for the way the Chinese language Communist Occasion has gained energy over international markets and endangered American pursuits.
In a second of uncommon bipartisan unity, lawmakers pledged to do extra to scale back these threats and enhance U.S. competitiveness.
“We could name this a strategic competitors, nevertheless it’s not a well mannered tennis match,” mentioned Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, the committee chair. “That is an existential battle over what life will appear to be within the twenty first century.”
Lawmakers characterised the U.S.-China dynamic as one that’s sophisticated and desires rapid consideration. Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the committee’s rating Democrat, mentioned the U.S. does not desire a warfare — sizzling or chilly — with China, however should work to discourage aggression.
As they did in a Tuesday interview with Morning Version, Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi had been cautious to tell apart between the Chinese language authorities and its folks, whom they see as victims of an oppressive regime.
In addition they harassed the necessity to keep away from xenophobia and “anti-Chinese language or Asian stereotyping in any respect prices.” (Notably, the opening statements had been disrupted by antiwar protesters holding indicators together with “China is just not our enemy” and “cease Asian hate.”)
“The CCP is relying on us being divided,” Krishnamoorthi mentioned. “We should rise to the event and show them mistaken.”
One space of concern: Overseas possession of U.S. farmland
Chinese language entities slowly are shopping for up extra U.S. farmland. Some members of Congress see that as a menace to nationwide safety.
One in all them is South Dakota Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, a member of the brand new China-focused committee. He advised Morning Version‘s Steve Inskeep on Wednesday that whereas China is on no account a significant participant in U.S. agriculture, its rising holdings overseas are trigger for concern.
“Meals safety is nationwide safety,” he mentioned. “And I feel we have seen that Russia was capable of train undue affect over Europe as a result of they provided them [with] a lot pure fuel. And equally, if China has management over meals provides in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, even in North America, that can provide them extra energy, extra coercive energy, over the globe.”
China truly owns a really small proportion — nearly 0.9% — of all foreign-owned U.S. agricultural land as of 2021, in line with the USDA. But it surely additionally says China’s agricultural funding overseas grew greater than tenfold between 2009 and 2016 alone, to the priority of many in these international locations.
“That is no small quantity of meals we’re speaking about,” Johnson says. “In recent times the Chinese language Communist Occasion has elevated their holdings of international farmland … by 1000%. They personal 1,300 agricultural processing amenities exterior of China, and that quantity is rising quickly.”
The Nationwide Household Farm Coalition and different advocacy teams argue that the larger menace to U.S. meals safety is the acquisition of land by companies, whether or not U.S. or foreign-owned, the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research notes.
Federal legislation does not limit how a lot personal U.S. agricultural land may be foreign-owned, although it does require international entities to reveal such data to the USDA. State stage restrictions on international land possession fluctuate.
Rep. Johnson is among the many bipartisan group of lawmakers who assist the PASS Act, which might create a federal ban on China, Iran, North Korea or Russia shopping for U.S. agricultural land or processing amenities.
Current purchases — together with a Chinese language firm’s 2022 acquisition of farmland close to a North Dakota air base — have fueled considerations and assist for such laws.
Johnson, a co-sponsor of the invoice, says Chinese language holdings are a really small portion of whole farmland within the U.S. proper now, however the situation could develop into a bigger focus for the brand new Home committee. The panel is planning future subject hearings, which may embody touring to a state to focus on the difficulty of China’s funding in land or agricultural companies.
“One factor we heard from our witnesses final evening is that we can not give the Chinese language Communist Occasion coercive energy over our economic system,” he says, whether or not that is in renewable applied sciences, uncommon Earth minerals, metal or different industries. “Meals is one space the place we proceed to keep up a aggressive benefit; we actually mustn’t let that slip away.”
Congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh contributed to this story.
Ally Schweitzer edited the audio interview.