Recent work by Congress to advance a series of bills intended to strengthen U.S. competitiveness and capabilities at home and abroad may seem like a signal of Capitol Hill’s “awakening” on China policy. But this campaign is hardly the only significant endeavor Congress has undertaken on the issue lately, nor should it be the last.
Congress’s momentum on China policy since 2020, as well as its hiccups, hold three key lessons for the way forward, whatever the outcome of the current legislative blitz.
First, Congress should use its legislative power to support America’s friends and populations abroad facing the abuse and coercion of the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP.
That is what members of Congress did when they shepherded several bills into law that strengthen a free Taiwan (TAIPEI Act and Taiwan Assurance Act), expose the CCP’s genocidal campaign in Xinjiang and authorize related sanctions (Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020), address CCP human rights abuses in Tibet (Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020), and hold actors accountable for violating Hong Kong’s autonomy and enabling oppression (Hong Kong Autonomy Act).
These laws should rebuke any perception that American politicians are incapable of overcoming partisanship to confront the CCP’s aggression and repression.
Second, lawmakers should leverage existing—and often neglected—oversight tools.
In 2020, the Defense Department began to keep track of Chinese military-linked companies operating in the United States, to comply with a 1999 law it had left unfulfilled. The military-industrial ecosystem in which these companies operate enables the CCP to amass power, influence, and coercive leverage, as our colleagues Emily de La Bruyère and Nathan Picarsic detailed in a Foundation for Defense of Democracies report. These listings lay the groundwork for a ban on the flow of some U.S. investments into many of these entities. Before this prohibition, Americans were helping finance these companies, sometimes inadvertently, through capital markets.