A new bipartisan consensus in Congress on the threat posed by communist China has resulted in a barrage of proposals and hearings to strengthen the United States’ position against the regime in Beijing.
Salvoes of legislation focused on supplying arms to Taiwan, curbing illicit organ harvesting, banning the social media app TikTok, and uncovering the true origins of COVID-19 have all come to the fore since the House’s Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its first hearing on Feb. 28.
“We may call this a ‘strategic competition,’ but this is not a polite tennis match,” Select Committee Chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) says. “This is an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century, and the most fundamental freedoms are at stake.”
Leading the charge to counter the CCP’s malign influence are a number of efforts to further fortify democratic Taiwan against a CCP invasion. The CCP claims Taiwan is part of its territory, although the regime has never controlled the self-ruled island. The United States, for its part, is legally required to furnish Taiwan with the weapons necessary to maintain its self-defense against the CCP.
To that end, the United States approved on March 3 the potential sale of $619 million in new weapons to Taiwan, following continued intimidation efforts by the communist regime, which frequently sends military aircraft and ships near the island.
The deal includes 200 anti-aircraft air-to-air missiles and 100 air-to-surface missiles capable of taking out land-based radar stations, which would help to give Taiwan an asymmetric advantage against the much larger CCP regime.
Meanwhile, the United States is working to overhaul its acquisition of certain high-end precision munitions, which experts are concerned might be depleted in the event of a war with China.
U.S. Army officials are in the process of ramping up production to overcome challenges associated with replenishing domestic stockpiles of munitions that were either sold to Ukraine or would be needed for a potential fight in the Indo-Pacific, according to Assistant Secretary of the Army Douglas Bush.
Members of Congress are also working to shore up ties between Taiwan and the United States.
While House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is preparing to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, that meeting now may take place in the United States rather than in Taipei to keep from provoking China.
An emerging bipartisan consensus also is forming about Chinese-owned social media giant TikTok, which has been repeatedly flagged by U.S. intelligence officials as a national security threat.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, maintains close ties to the CCP; ByteDance employees previously used TikTok data to illicitly stalk American journalists who reported on the company’s relationship with the regime.
A bipartisan group of 12 U.S. senators, led by Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), announced legislation on March 7 that would pave the way for the Commerce Department to “ban or prohibit” tech companies owned by hostile governments or rogue nations from doing business in the United States.
The move follows a Feb. 27 order from the White House to implement a new law banning TikTok from U.S. government devices.
Likewise, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on Feb. 28 to advance a proposal that would give President Joe Biden additional powers to ban TikTok from the United States completely.
Congress has also directed legislation toward the CCP’s state-sanctioned campaign of forced organ harvesting. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously voted on Feb. 28 to advance the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act of 2023.
The bill would bar entry to the United States by perpetrators of forced organ harvesting, and also block financial transactions on U.S. soil by those known to be engaged in the practice.
“People are finally waking up to the brutality of the CCP,” lead sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said in a statement on Feb. 28.
“We in the United States, in the medical field in particular, must examine our moral complicity in this most heinous of crimes.”
An independent people’s tribunal in 2019 found that the communist regime was forcibly harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience on a “significant scale,” with the prime targets being detained adherents of persecuted spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Congress Seeks Intel on Wuhan Lab Leak
Perhaps most notably, lawmakers are calling on Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to turn over materials related to her office’s latest assessment of the origins of COVID-19.
The move comes after a contentious week in the intelligence community, in which the FBI and Department of Energy (DoE) both concluded that COVID-19 most likely leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.
To that end, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill on March 1 that would require the Biden administration to declassify intelligence related to the origins of COVID-19.
The legislation, known as the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023, specifically seeks to investigate the possibility that the virus which causes COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) reintroduced the bill on March 6 after the DoE provided a classified intelligence report to the White House and certain members of Congress on the matter.
“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in an interview with Fox News.
“You’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans.”