In Washington today, talking tough on China has become all the rage. Policymakers have begun offering eloquent speeches almost daily about the growing threat from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
It is commendable politicians are finally talking the talk—but not nearly enough are walking the walk.
That is especially true of the Biden administration. Even as the U.S. government confronts its approach to the wars in Ukraine and Israel, it can’t lose sight of the far larger threat looming on the horizon.
Rather than ratcheting up the pressure on the CCP and countering China’s efforts to threaten U.S. economic and national security, they believe our problems can be resolved by an endless stream of new dialogues and diplomatic engagements.
Case in point: Four senior Biden administration officials have marched to Beijing in recent months, with no diplomatic reciprocity and not a tangible policy win in sight. The CCP uses the Biden administration’s desire for dialogue, particularly on climate issues, to extract concessions from Washington, to stall necessary actions against the CCP, and to give the false impression of progress without changing any of the policies that are harming everyday Americans.
And the Chinese strategy is working. Presumably to improve the mood for dialogue, the Biden administration has been slowing, halting, or even reversing necessary actions against the CCP. In one particularly egregious example, the Biden administration recently eased export controls on over two dozen Chinese companies, some of which empower the Chinese military and surveillance state.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the Biden administration that has been negligent: too often conservatives in Congress are talking the talk but failing to walk the walk. There is a real risk that the House of Representatives will close out its first year of Republican leadership without notching any meaningful legislative accomplishments to address the most critical national security threats from the CCP.
The Heritage Foundation expects conservatives in Congress to take action. We expect legislators to ban TikTok and firewall the U.S. against similar CCP tech threats. We expect them to ban the use of Chinese drones and other surveillance equipment in the U.S.; expel CCP agents and Confucius institutes from the American education system; and close illegal Chinese police stations operating in U.S. cities. And we certainly expect them to do more to hold China accountable for its role in the COVID pandemic.
We also insist conservative leaders work to ban CCP agents from purchasing U.S. farmland and real estate near military sites and sensitive infrastructure; that they end the stream of fentanyl precursors originating in China that is killing over 70,000 Americans every year; and that they prioritize strengthening U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific and arming Taiwan to the teeth to deter China from taking any reckless military action in the Taiwan Strait. They must also push to fix our broken export control regime, which currently sends advanced American technology to Chinese entities working with the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese the surveillance state.
Most urgently, we demand that conservative leaders start to put the interests of the American people above the corporate cronyism that is “funding our own destruction.” There is a battle brewing today over the billions of dollars of U.S. capital that flow into China annually with few restrictions, little oversight, and minimal prohibitions. That includes the pension funds of millions of Americans who are unwittingly funding Chinese companies building aircraft carriers and fighters jets that could one day be used against American servicemembers.
The House Select Committee on China estimates that a “sizable portion” of the over $1 trillion of U.S. capital invested in China “directly finances PRC technology companies with documented connections to the Chinese military and the [CCP’s] abhorrent human rights abuses.” The U.S. investment giant Blackrock is alone thought to have over $400 million invested in Chinese companies “that pose national security risks to and act directly against the interests of the United States.”
Congress must seize opportunities to address this problem now, including this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Sadly, rather than working to strengthen outbound investment review, the Republican-led House has proposed pitifully weak measures. In fact, they are even weaker than the Biden administration’s new Executive Order or the “Casey-Cornyn” bill circulating in the Democrat-led Senate, which itself includes no investment prohibitions, just a new notification and review regime.
House Republicans refuse to even go that far, instead pushing a sanctions bill designed to sound tough while avoiding new transparency on investment restrictions. Rather than seeking to strengthen the Senate proposal to include blanket prohibitions on U.S. investments in problematic Chinese sectors like semiconductors, quantum computing, hypersonics, and artificial intelligence, House Republicans are proposing an even more feeble regime.
It’s time for a course correction. Congress works for the American people, not Wall Street. Vague appeals to America’s free trade traditions cannot be used a shield to defend business as usual with the CCP or to line the pockets of big business for working with our number one adversary. There can be no free trade with a communist country that disregards the rules, manipulates its market, embeds “Party Cells” in every major corporation, and steals whatever it can get its hands on. Let’s be clear: Investing in China’s military is not a conservative principle.
Conservatives have talked long enough. It’s time to walk the walk. The Heritage Foundation is doing its part. The American people take the threat from China deadly seriously: it’s time for Congress to do the same.
This piece originally appeared in The Telegraph