Beijing Irked by US Bill That Counters China Threat

November 19, 2021 Updated: November 25, 2021

Commentary

Beijing’s influence operations inside the United States have taken on a new dimension, as revealed by reports that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been pressuring American companies to lobby against a sweeping China bill that seeks to enhance U.S. competitiveness.

The report must have alarmed U.S. congressional leaders, who now pledge to “immediately” resume talks and get the bill over the finish line “as soon as possible.”

The China bill that bothers Beijing is called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which is a 2,376-page legislative package. The Senate passed USICA in June with a bipartisan vote of 68–32. A narrower version of the bill, called the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act, has stalled in the House since July due to disagreements and other legislative priorities.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington threatened U.S. companies with losing market share in China if the legislation became law, Reuters reported. Through letters and meetings, Chinese officials have been imploring “a wide range” of business actors to lobby against the measure.

Both Senate and House bills aim to counter Beijing’s economic ambitions and global influence. They seek to address issues surrounding Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Beijing’s genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. USICA calls for boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics and reporting on the origins of the COVID–19 pandemic.

To enhance U.S. competitiveness, the Senate bill also dedicates $52 billion in funding to domestic semiconductor production and authorizes nearly $190 billion in spending to bolster U.S. critical technologies.

In a letter sent in early November, the Chinese Embassy asked company executives to “play a positive role in urging members of Congress to abandon the zero-sum mindset and ideological prejudice, stop touting negative China-related bills, [and] delete negative provisions.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian didn’t deny these influence operations but said that certain U.S. bills reflected “Cold War thinking” that harmed the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Washington, however, has no intentions of backing down, according to Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), co-sponsor of the Senate bill, who responded to China’s threats.

“Xi Jinping does not want this bill to become law,” Young said in a statement. The Chinese leader is “scared” because USICA will make the United States “once again surge ahead.”

China threats “will only help to ensure the bill becomes law,” he said.

News that China is lobbying against the bill could unite and energize both parties and chambers of Congress to pass a bipartisan bill without delay.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, long-time China hawks, reached a deal on Nov. 17 to reconcile the two different bills. The deal came after Senate Republicans and some House Democrats opposed Schumer’s plan to include the legislation in the annual defense policy bill.

“While there are many areas of agreement on these legislative proposals between the two chambers, there are still a number of important unresolved issues,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement, adding that they will resolve these differences through the conference process.

Both chambers “will immediately begin a bipartisan process of reconciling the two chambers’ legislative proposals so that we can deliver a final piece of legislation to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” they said.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, drew criticism earlier for narrowing some of the provisions in the Senate bill pertaining to human rights and Taiwan. The House bill also asked for billions to fight climate change, which wasn’t included in the Senate version. These changes upset Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans, who opposed the bill in July.

“I am glad talks have resumed on passing legislation to confront the generational threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told me.

“But it is vital this legislation be bipartisan–and meaningfully address the various aspects of the CCP’s malign actions, rather than providing billions more for the Green Climate Fund on top of the tens of billions in climate dollars appropriated this week alone.”

House Republicans want the bill “to counter the CCP’s ideological and territorial expansion, to stop their economic malfeasance, to maintain our conventional military edge in the Indo-Pacific, and to secure critical technology supply chains,” according to McCaul.

It’s unclear what the ultimate China bill will look like, but it “needs to be more than messaging and can’t be turned into another political football–it’s too important,” McCaul said.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Emel Akan
reporter
Emel Akan is White House economic policy reporter in Washington, D.C. Previously she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan and as a consultant at PwC. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.