US urged to do more against rising threat of assertive China

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission characterised China as a threat to the current international order that has American values at its core. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The United States should ratchet up its demands of China to include equal access for companies and media, stricter monitoring of Beijing's activities at the United Nations, and preventive action to safeguard American interests in technology and finance, a bipartisan panel told Congress on Tuesday (Dec 1).

A 575-page report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission - created by Congress to track and anticipate threats from China - characterised the world's second-largest economy as a threat to the current international order that has American values at its core.

It added that China's leaders view those values as a barrier to the country's external ambitions and an existential threat to their rule.

"Chinese leaders' assessment of the United States as a dangerous and firmly committed opponent has informed nearly every facet of China's diplomatic strategy, economic policy, and military planning in the post-Cold War era," the panel said.

Amid a continuing US effort to roll back China's dominance in next-generation 5G communications, the role of technology emerges as a clear theme throughout the annual report.

The study said Beijing uses the establishment of technical standards as a way to "advance an alternative technological order". It also warned that China's effort at financial opening was part of a "calculated strategy" to secure foreign investment inflows and use them to shore up the domestic economy. This would increase exposure to unique risks in China's financial system for foreign investors, the report said.

"China is an adversary presenting unique and immediate threats to our economic and security interests," Mr Robin Cleveland, chairman of the commission, said in an opening statement. He said the report reflected "an understanding that the challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party are not partisan - they are American concerns".

The analysis also looked at areas including military capabilities, trade relations, public health and Covid-19-related issues, as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Beijing's national security law for the former British colony had "significantly compromised" the rule of law and press freedom, the report found.

"Under growing pressure from the CCP, the territory's judicial system has been thrown into crisis as judges are compelled to adopt mainland legal principles and CCP positions," the report said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Police detain protesters after a rally against the national security law in Hong Kong on Sep 6, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Wednesday morning.

Last year, in response to a similar report from the commission, then Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the panel was "deeply entrenched in prejudice against China", adding that its reports were "rarely based on facts".

A statement on Wednesday from Hong Kong's government described the report as "yet another example" of US interference in Hong Kong's affairs, using "democracy and self-determination as an excuse".

The statement continued, saying that "such groundless and unjust political manoeuvres will achieve nothing but undermining Hong-Kong-US relations and hurting the US' own interests".

Competition between the US and China had intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the authors of the US report wrote, and they argued that the time for action is now.

"If Beijing succeeds in normalising its views of governance, the result could undermine individual rights around the world," the commission said. "Underestimating Beijing's intent to revise the international order based on its current capabilities risks delaying a response until it is already too late to preserve the liberal international order."

The report makes 19 recommendations, highlighting some as being of "particular significance". They include urging that the US Congress:

- Adopt the principle of "reciprocity" in all legislation related to US-China relations.

- Expand the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to monitor and take foreign government subsidies into account when looking at company mergers.

- Direct the State Department to produce an annual report detailing China's actions in the UN and its agencies that subvert the principles and purposes of the organisation.

- Consider establishing a Manhattan Project-like effort to ensure that the US public has access to safe and secure supplies of critical drugs and medical equipment.

- Enact legislation establishing a centre on China economic data inside the Commerce Department.

- Direct the White House to sanction the parent of any entity in China sanctioned over actions contrary to the economic and national security interests of the US or for violations of human rights.

- Consider enacting legislation to make the de facto US ambassador in Taiwan a presidential nomination subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

- Direct the Administration to identify and remove barriers for Hong Kong residents to get US visas if they are attempting to exit Hong Kong out of fear of political persecution.

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