27th May 2023 – (Washington) As diplomatic channels between the United States and China reopen, a small but vocal anti-China faction in the US House of Representatives is growing increasingly uneasy. By propagating exaggerated narratives about the perceived threat posed by China, these representatives aim to maintain their relevance and undermine the improvement of bilateral relations.
The US House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party recently approved two reports concerning China’s Xinjiang region and Taiwan, with the intention of turning some recommendations into law this year. Established in January, this bipartisan committee and its members have consistently taken provocative stances on China-related issues in an effort to demonstrate their importance to Congress.
The committee has conducted numerous hearings to criticise China on a variety of subjects, such as the social media platform TikTok, Taiwan, economic and trade relations, and human rights issues. In April, the group participated in a simulated war game exercise related to a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Although the exercise concluded that “nobody wins when deterrence breaks down,” as stated by committee leader Mike Gallagher, the actual intent was to encourage the US to increase military involvement in the region.
Later in April, committee members, along with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, visited California to meet with Taiwan’s regional leader Tsai Ing-wen, ignoring strong objections from China. In many ways, the committee functions as a policy incubator for Congress, with members hoping to forge a consensus within their ranks before advancing proposals to larger, more influential committees. This dynamic allows the group to provide ammunition for other panels and House leaders who consistently target China.
The 24 representatives on the committee share one common trait: a decidedly negative and hawkish stance toward China. This unifying factor has made the group a key anti-China force within Congress. Operating as a small faction allows them to better coordinate and plan their anti-China initiatives. These lawmakers thrive on criticizing China and using China-related issues to gain public attention and further their political careers in the US.
The contrast between the provocative actions of the House committee and the White House’s desire to reduce tensions with China suggests that US lawmakers and government officials do not share a unified stance on China-related matters. Congressional rhetoric tends to emphasise the geopolitical rivalry with China, often incorporating strong ideological undertones.
Consequently, it is not surprising that some members of Congress are resistant to the stabilisation of U.S.-China relations. Their exaggerated political tactics reveal a hidden agenda to undermine the relationship between the two nations or push them into a new cold war.
Even within the U.S. government, reaching a consensus on how to handle China is difficult. The recent departures of Rick Waters, the State Department’s leading China policy official, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman highlight the disagreements among Washington officials regarding the direction of US-China relations.
For President Joe Biden, unifying the administration’s stance on China is a significant challenge. Additionally, even if a unified approach is achieved, Congress’s push for a more aggressive China policy will likely obstruct its implementation.
Given the prevalence of extremism in U.S. politics, it is unlikely that the nation’s China policy will return to a rational and pragmatic course in the near future. Unfortunately, US diplomacy has been consistently hampered by the pervasive influence of staunch China hawks.