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Senate panel proposes bill to counter security, intellectual threat from China

The committee's 281-page bill includes measures to beef up surveillance of China's intellectual property theft and moves to bypass U.S. export controls. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
The committee's 281-page bill includes measures to beef up surveillance of China's intellectual property theft and moves to bypass U.S. export controls. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

April 9 (UPI) -- Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation to bolster the United States' international position to thwart Chinese global influence through investing in human rights, confronting "predatory" economic actions and rebuilding relations with allies.

Announced Thursday by Senate foreign relations committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 seeks to secure the U.S. position across both national and international spheres.

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According to the bill, China's policies "threaten the future character of the international order," U.S. interests and international peace and freedom.

"[China] is reshaping the current international order, which is built upon the rule of law and free and open ideals and principles," the bill states.

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The bill calls for fortifying U.S. diplomatic strategy and reaffirming commitments to allies and partners, especially in the Indo-Pacific region and Asia. It also seeks to create a coordinated arms control plan to face China's rapid military modernization and counter actions to steal intellectual property.

Concerning China's human rights abuses, the bill directs the U.S. government to invest in universal values while authorizing measures to support democracy in Hong Kong and sanction Beijing for actions in Xinjiang region, where it's accused of committing genocide against the Uighur Muslim community.

The 281-page bill includes measures to beef up surveillance of China's intellectual property theft and moves to bypass U.S. export controls. It also offers aid for allies fighting corruption and debt relief to the poorest nations affected by COVID-19.

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"The United States government must be clear-eyed and sober about Beijing's intentions and actions, and calibrate our policy and strategy accordingly," Menendez said in a statement, describing the bill as an "unprecedented bipartisan effort to mobilize all U.S. strategic, economic and diplomatic tools" to confront China.

Menendez scheduled a meeting for Wednesday for the committee to vote on the measure.

The proposed law also asks the director of National Intelligence to submit to Congress a report on the origins of the COVID-19 no later than 180 days after it's enacted.

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Concerning Taiwan, which China views as a a breakaway province, the bill considers the island's security and democracy as "key elements" for peace in the region, calls for U.S. support for its defense and advocates "meaningful" participation in the United Nations, the World Health Assembly and other such organizations for Taiwan.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the committee's ranking Republican, said the bill is a good first step to countering China.

"This bill tackles the Chinese Communist Party's political influence across the globe, and importantly, in our own university system in the United States," he said.

In February, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer asked legislators to fashion legislation "to out-compete China."

The Trump administration took a hard stance against China, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo implementing measures to restrict the movements of Beijing diplomats and designating Chinese media organizations as propaganda.

The Justice Department has also arrested dozens of predominantly Chinese professors and academics working at U.S. universities since 2018 on accusations of economic espionage and trade secret theft.

This view of China seems to be continuing under the Biden administration, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreeing with the genocide position of his predecessor and imposing sanctions against Beijing.

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