The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on Jan. 10 to establish a select committee on China, to address the “multifaceted threats” that China poses to the United States.* On Jan. 11, Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, responded by expressing his hope that those concerned in the United States would look upon China and China-U.S. relations objectively and rationally, act in the United States’ own interests but also in the shared interests of both China and the United States, and work with China to promote the development of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and a win-win form of cooperation in China-U.S. relations.
The establishment of this committee is the second resolution passed by the House of Representatives of the 118th United States Congress since it formally convened, and the haste with which the resolution was pushed through reveals how anxious House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is to stabilize and consolidate his position. For a speaker who took four days and 15 rounds of voting to get elected, McCarthy’s first show of strength against China has been no more than a demonstration that he will honor his midterm election promise to placate the most extreme and radical members of the Republican Party who steadfastly opposed his bid for speaker. From this perspective, the new Congress’ second resolution blatantly targets China, and the performative political elements of this action are all too obvious.
It is worth noting that the resolution establishing the committee was passed by an overwhelmingly majority in the House. In a politically polarized United States where the two parties are highly antagonistic, Democrats and Republicans are only able to reach a consensus on the issue of China, which serves to illustrate how seriously anxiety about China is currently permeating Washington’s political circles. This cooperation on both sides of the aisle is likely to nudge China-U.S. relations into even more dangerous territory. A Bloomberg editorial reported that the resolution reflects widespread sentiment among American politicians who are calling for a confrontational strategy to contain the world’s second largest economy. Gabriel Wildau, a managing director at the global consulting firm Teneo, has written that the political pressure from this new select committee could force the Biden administration to take a tougher stance on China, affecting multinational companies that do business here.
American politicians obsessed with political grandstanding should open their eyes to the fact that continued damage to China-U.S. relations will ultimately hurt the United States itself. Take for example the tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on China that still have not been lifted. According to data from the U.S.-based, nongovernmental anti-tariff group, Tariffs Harm the United States,** the U.S. government’s tariff war has so far caused over $134 billion in losses to American agriculture, retail, manufacturing, business, and consumers. A report released in October 2022 by the Peterson Institute for International Economics states that the tariffs have damaged the United States’ manufacturing industry, jobs, exports, and to some extent, the competitiveness of American companies in both the domestic and international markets. In an article titled “On China, Congress Is Its Own Worst Enemy,” Bloomberg columnist Mihir Sharma writes that the United States “is building walls” (against China) that have cost domestic companies billions of dollars. Countries around the world recognize that globalization is essential to their competitiveness and prosperity, yet unfortunately, too many in American political circles have forgotten this fact.
The clumsy, anti-China performance of American politicians runs counter to the historical trends of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit. The various dilemmas in China-U.S. relations today are closely related to the persistent difficulties American politicians have with abandoning the “Cold War mentality.” It is past time for the United States, which has steadily indulged in fantasies of being a Cold War victor and of a confrontation between great powers, to finally wake up.
*Editor’s note: The author is referring to the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.
**Editor’s note: The author may be referring to an organization named Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.
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