US Commission Calls for Reciprocity as ‘Foundational’ Principle in Actions Targeting Chinese Regime

December 1, 2020 Updated: December 2, 2020

Congress should apply the principle of reciprocity in all legislation concerning U.S.–China relations, a U.S. congressional commission has urged.

The recommendation was among 19 made in an annual report (pdf) by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) that focuses on responding to a catalog of challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“China is an adversary presenting unique and immediate threats for economic and security interests,” Robin Cleveland, USCC chair, said at a virtual press conference on the report’s release on Dec. 1.

This year, the regime has intensified its confrontation with the United States and other countries, “as China’s leaders have grown increasingly aggressive and antagonistic,” Vice Chairman Carolyn Bartholomew said.

Cleveland said that the principle of reciprocity should be “foundational and define all aspects of the U.S.-China relationship going forward.” That includes the United States promoting opportunity and access to China by U.S. companies, journalists, NGOs, and diplomats.

Reciprocity has been a key theme defining the Trump administration’s policy toward the regime. The State Department has leveled a range of actions in response to Beijing’s restrictions on foreign media and diplomats. Earlier this year, the administration shut the Chinese Consulate in Houston in response to the espionage activities run out of the center.

chinese consulate
Signs outside the Chinese Consulate after the United States ordered China to close its doors in Houston, on July 22, 2020. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

On the economic front, the commission recommended the government enhance its data collection of economic and financial data from China.

The panel urged that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) be empowered to monitor and consider foreign government subsidies when reviewing proposed mergers and acquisitions. If the FTC finds that those subsidies have facilitated the merger, it could propose measures to correct the distortion or block the transaction, the report stated. The measure is directed at the Chinese regime using subsidies and other forms of support to prop up firms in key industries championed by Beijing.

The report recommended that the Commerce Department be authorized to collect and analyze data on China’s financial markets, and assess the risks it poses to American investors.

“Increased financial exposure to China threatens to undermine U.S. efforts to defend against China’s unfair economic practices and protect U.S. policy interests,” it stated.

The report notes that several Chinese companies blacklisted by the Commerce Department for aiding rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, including surveillance firms Hikvision and Zhejiang Dahua, are included in investment global indexes tracked by U.S. funds.

“This mismatch enables problematic Chinese companies to continue raising U.S. capital and reduces the strength with which the United States can defend against companies that threaten national security,” the report stated.

The commission also took aim at Beijing’s recruitment plans and sponsorship programs aimed to enable the transfer of U.S. technology and research to China. It recommended that immigration laws be amended so that an applicant for a nonimmigrant visa may be denied a visa if they are affiliated with a foreign government technology transfer program or if they have broken U.S. laws relating to espionage, sabotage, or export controls.

The State Department also should be directed to produce an annual report detailing the regime’s efforts to subvert the United Nations and associated bodies, the report recommended.

“Beijing is working to expand its global influence to implement its ‘community of common human destiny’—a community that would echo China’s worldview, defer to its priorities and exercise fealty to its form of government,” Bartholomew said.

In response to the regime’s widening crackdown in Hong Kong since its imposition of the draconian national security law, the report urged Congress to direct the administration to make it easier for Hongkongers fleeing the city for fear of political persecution to obtain U.S. visas.

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