In late February, the Republican majority House of Representatives held their first-ever hearing on China where top American lawmakers labelled China as an “existential” threat to the United States. The hearing was attended by lawmakers from both political parties and they discussed various issues ranging from trade, technology, and human rights to geopolitical influences. Representative Michael McCaul one of the top Republicans on the House of Foreign Affairs Committee was the lead speaker at the hearing. He began by stating that China was the “most significant national security threat facing the United States” and that the Communist party-led China was engaged in an all-out effort to supplant the United States as the world’s dominant power.
Other Republican lawmakers echoed similar sentiments warning that China’s growing military power and territorial ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region pose a significant threat to US interests. They also raised concerns about China’s human rights record particularly its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong. The other representative Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina warned that China is seeking to supplant America as the dominant power in the Indo-Pacific and beyond and that it was crucial for the US to take a more strategic and coordinated approach to deal with China’s rise. He also called for greater investment in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s military buildup and increased support for US allies in the region.
The hearing also touched on the issue of intellectual property theft with Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas calling on the United States to hold China accountable for its theft of American Intellectual property. He pointed out that the theft of intellectual property has cost the US economy hundreds of billions of dollars and that the United States must take a more aggressive stance against China on this very issue. On the Democratic side representative, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey called for a tougher stance on human rights abuses in China. He argued the United States to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for these abuses and support human rights organizations working in China. He also criticized the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, stating that China’s lack of transparency had led to the rapid spread of the virus around the world.
The hearing also highlighted the need for greater cooperation among the US allies in countering China’s influence and aggression. Representative Gerry Connolly a democrat from Virginia stressed the importance of building partnerships with like-minded countries to address the challenge posed by China. He pointed out that the United States cannot face China alone and that it must work with its allies to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Furthermore, the congressional hearing on China was an important event that underscored the growing concerns about China’s rise and its impact on US national security interests. The US has long regarded China as a strategic competitor but the label of existential threat is significant as it implies a much greater level of concern.
Moreover, China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo pacific region has been a cause for concern among US policymakers. China has been building up its military presence in the South China Sea claiming large swathes of the region as its own despite the objections of other nations in the region including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. China’s actions have led to fears of a potential military conflict in the region which could have global ramifications. China’s human rights record has also been a cause for concern. The Chinese government has been accused of a wide range of human rights abuses including the detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong. The United States has been critical of China’s handling of these issues and the congressional hearing was a clear signal that the US will not ignore China’s human rights abuses.