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Feb. 3, 2021
Notes from the Pentagon

House Republicans criticize Democrats' China bill

By Bill Gertz
The House Republican Study Committee issued a report this week that criticizes a Democratic policy bill now working its way through the chamber aimed at competing with China.

The “America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength,” or the America COMPETES Act, is backed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calls for, among other provisions, spending $50.2 billion over four years to improve the U.S. semiconductor industry’s manufacturing capacity.

The Republican Study Committee, in a report signed by chair Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, and made public Monday, said the Democratic legislation should more aptly be called the “Concede Act.” The 2,900-page bill “appears to have been written to help China,” the conservative lawmakers said.

In a list of what Republican lawmakers called flaws in the bill, the report says the America COMPETES bill would invite more malign actors into the United States by allowing an unlimited number of Chinese Communist Party officials to enter the U.S.

The bill also urges the U.S. government to abide by the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement, an accord that Republicans say will cripple U.S. economic output while doing nothing to slow China’s greenhouse gas emission levels.

The report also warns that the Democratic bill would provide “more opportunities for China to steal our intellectual property: The bill directs the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China to work together and undertake ‘parallel initiatives’ on research, development, finance and deployment.”

The legislation, in the Study Committee’s critique, also would refocus the U.S. military to train to “combat climate change” rather than focusing on countering Chinese military moves in Asia and the world.

On the pandemic, which began in China in December 2019, the bill would avoid holding China responsible for the damage caused by the disease outbreak.

“The only mention of the investigation into COVID origins is a meaningless requirement that mandates [President] Biden give a report to Congress,” the GOP report says, noting it would require no independent investigation and authorizes no sanctions or punishment for the Chinese government.

The Republican report also states that the Democrat bill would waste taxpayer dollars by spending billions on matters unrelated to China.

For example, the House Democratic bill — a significantly different version of the China competition bill that has already passed the Senate with bipartisan support — would spend $8 billion for a United Nations Green Climate Fund; $2 million in foreign aid for opposing climate change; and $22 million to investigate residential building collapses. It also creates a new federal program to study plumbing.

The Democratic China bill also does not address the controversy over Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes, billed as cultural and language outreach centers at schools across the country that U.S. security agencies say have also been used to promote Chinese policies and interests.

“The bill fails to ban federal funding for colleges and universities that host Confucius Institutes, a tool of the Chinese Communist Party to steal our intellectual property and censor our campuses,” the report said.

Mr. Banks said the bill in many ways tracks the Senate legislation introduced by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer but lacks teeth in countering threats posed by China.

“It is weak and fails to properly confront the China threat, and it throws billions at unrelated issues that have nothing to do with our national security,” he said.

Chinese state media troll targets Pelosi
Chen Weihua, an official who writes for the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated China Daily, called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “a parasite” and criticized her personal stock trades.

Mr. Chen is a notorious Twitter troll who has exploited the relatively free and open social media platform, which is banned in China, to regularly attack the United States and its leaders. His latest tirade came two days ago in response to a tweet by the California Democrat promoting her China bill aimed at helping the U.S. compete with China.

“Right now, the Chinese government’s unfair, inhumane, anti-free market trade practices rig the global economy against American workers. With #AmericaCOMPETES, we’re taking strong action to combat unfair trade practices and support American workers & domestic manufacturing,” Mrs. Pelosi tweeted.

In response, Mr. Chen attacked the speaker on another front: “It’s totally unfair for a House Speaker to profit bigly from stock trading. Totally Criminal Parasite.” A spokesperson for Mrs. Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Chen was referring to recent online media reports highlighting stock trading and investments by Mrs. Pelosi, a multimillionaire, in companies like Apple, Tesla, Amazon, Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft and Walt Disney Co.

Last month, a group of 27 House members, mostly Democrats, signed a letter to House leaders calling for legislation that would ban members of Congress from owning or trading individual stocks, in a bid to prevent lawmakers from using their access to information to make money in the markets.

Twitter has labeled Mr. Chen’s account as “China state-affiliated media,” although his account states that his tweets are personal.

Mrs. Pelosi is not the only target of Mr. Chen on Twitter. The Chinese propagandist has insulted Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn and called her a “racist” for supporting Trump administration sanctions on China for its repressive policies toward ethnic Uyghurs.

Mrs. Blackburn in response tweeted that Mr. Chen is “a puppet in [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s delusional China dream for global domination.”

“From Tiananmen Square to Uyghur genocide, Communist China is an expert at slaughtering populations. America will not bow down to sexist communist thugs,” she said.

Schumer fails to fill China panel seats
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been actively promoting a Senate bill aimed at bolstering the United States’ ability to compete with China. At the same time, however, the New York Democrat has failed to fill two seats on a key bipartisan panel of experts known as the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The failure to name two commissioners has raised questions about whether Mr. Schumer is committed to the goals outlined in his own bill calling for a ramped-up support of U.S. competitiveness in the face of the Chinese challenge, a bill that passed the chamber last year.

By contrast, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has named his two choices to the China commission: former Pentagon and State Department policymaker Randy Schriver and former White House national security official and Princeton University China expert Aaron Friedberg.

“I don’t know why it’s taking so long, but there’s no excuse,” said Derek Scissors, a commission member. “One of Sen. Schumer’s appointments was empty all last year, which is irresponsible regardless of the reason.”

Mr. Scissors added that Mr. Schumer “claims China is a top priority while weakening an organization set up by Congress to inform China policy, and weakening his own input to that organization. It’s bizarre.”

A spokesperson for Mr. Schumer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The commission was set up in 2001 to investigate and report on national security issues related to China and is supposed to have 12 members appointed evenly among both Senate and House leaders of both parties. The Senate majority leader is tasked with picking several members.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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