Tom Cole

Can’t Trust Communist China

By Congressman Tom Cole

No country has been spared from the repercussions of China’s coronavirus missteps and cover-up that accelerated the current global pandemic. However, the coronavirus crisis is not the first time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated it is an untrustworthy competitor.

For over four decades, the U.S. diplomatic strategy regarding China was based on the belief that by engaging the CCP, China would become more western-like and evolve into a responsible player in the community of nations. Instead, China views western values as an existential threat and actively works to weaken the United States’ alliance system and reject key principles of international law. Unfortunately, China is moving ahead using its financial and military power to shape a world in which it is the leading global power.

There is increasing recognition that relations with China are strategically, economically and ideologically competitive. Indeed, there are fewer areas of cooperation than most had thought, and many more areas of intense competition. During President Trump’s first year in office, the U.S. officially declared China a major strategic competitor. In fact, the December 2017 National Security Strategy plainly described China as a “revisionist” power that “seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor.”

There is no doubt that the CCP is now angling for greater power and recognition in the world order and with freedom-threatening motives, which makes it even more urgent for the United States to take serious and coordinated steps to counter this competitive, security and ideological threat. In response to this threat, I was very encouraged by the recommendations recently put forward by the China Task Force (CTF) to hold China accountable and strengthen America’s national and economic security.

Led by House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Michael McCaul, the select panel of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives spent months participating in numerous briefings and hearings with key experts. Before drawing conclusions and outlining a path forward to keep China accountable, their work included conversations with more than 130 leaders – including current and former Administration officials, ambassadors, business executives and other relevant experts. The resulting CTF Report published recently not only detailed their extensive work but also provided 82 key findings, along with more than 400 policy recommendations to protect U.S. interests from the growing China threat. The CTF Report focuses on six important pillars: ideological competition, supply chain security, national security, technology, economics and energy and competitiveness. It’s worth noting that, although Democrats declined to participate in the panel’s work, many of their recommendations actually reflect bipartisan legislation already introduced or passed in the House or Senate.

Perhaps most alarming this year, the coronavirus pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in our supply chains, which have become heavily entwined with and reliant on China. To combat and loosen our dependence on China, the CTF recommended commonsense steps to boost American production of goods and services. This would include providing tax incentives for drug and medical supply research and development and creating grant programs to encourage domestic production of important technologies.

The CTF Report also outlined steps to strengthen our national defense in response to China’s military capacity and force improvements in recent years. This would include stopping material support of China’s military industrial base companies, enhancing counterintelligence capabilities and focusing more on U.S. military protection of space capabilities and carrying out space exploration goals.

Finally, the CTF Report rightly raises the alarm about the very real cyber security risks posed by China. To identify and counter bad actors in Chinese technology, the CTF recommended strengthening cooperation between our friends and allies abroad. This would include imposing sanctions on CCP-connected telecommunications companies, especially those engaged in economic or industrial spying, and any entity attempting to hack and steal our intellectual property. Considering that China has already tried to steal U.S. research into a COVID-19 vaccine, this is an incredibly urgent matter.

Certainly, CTF’s recommendations rely on America’s own ability and capacity to compete with China. That must include long-term investments and some institutional reforms. According to the CTF Report, this should include doubling the funding of basic science and technology research over the next 10 years, boosting funding and support for STEM education to improve our own workforce, strengthening the protection of research at our higher education institutions and mandating annual reports of all Chinese donations received by colleges and universities.

As the nearly 150-page CTF Report reveals, the China problem isn’t a small or easy problem to solve. It will take hard work as well as shared determination and resolve across the Capitol and in the White House to keep China accountable, protect U.S interests and preserve freedom. Remember, because of China’s dishonesty, irresponsibility and lack of transparency with what they knew and when about coronavirus, the whole world needlessly suffered and is still suffering. More than a million lives have been lost to date, and many economies are barely hanging on. We cannot wait until the next crisis to get serious.

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