Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., sponsored the PRC is Not a Developing Country Act in February amid worsening relations between the United States and China. Pool photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo
March 28 (UPI) -- House lawmakers have unanimously voted to strip China of its developing nation status that has afforded Beijing preferential treatment in international agreements and treaties.
H.R. 1107, better known as the PRC is Not a Developing Country Act, passed the House in a 415-0 vote with 19 lawmakers abstaining on Monday. PRC are the initials for China's official name, the People's Republic of China.
The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Young Kim, R-Calif., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was introduced in late February amid worsening relations between Washington and Beijing.
The House representatives had introduced the bill on accusations that China, the world's second largest economy, was benefiting from its developing nation status by receiving developmental assistance and loans from international organizations while exploiting other countries through its Belt-and-Road Initiative that critics have described as a debt trap.
The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden, would make U.S. policy oppose the labeling or treatment of China as a developing country in any treaty or agreement the United States is a party of and pursue labeling it as either an upper middle income, a high income or developed country.
It would also direct the United States to lobby organizations it is a part of to do likewise and direct the Secretary of State to prepare a report within 180 days of the legislation's passing that identifies all treaties that have different enforcement standards based on a country's development status and those that include China as a party.
Though possessing the world's largest economy behind only the United States, China is considered to be a developing economy by the United Nations.
"We are long overdue to level the playing field," Kim said Monday from the House floor. "We cannot let the PRC continue exploiting countries in need and take unfair advantage of international treaties and organizations. It is time that we give developing countries a better chance at participating in programs that are meant for them and not meant for the world's second largest economy."
Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., also argued in favor of the bill before the House, stating China, as the world's largest emitter of greenhouses gases, has used its developing country status to shirk its responsibilities to combat climate change.
"It is time that the PRC should be ascribed the responsibilities commensurate with its global impact power," she said. "Right now, China gets to have its cake and eat it, too. It is bolstering its presence in organizations and treaties all the while avoiding having to contribute its appropriate share to solving global problems.
"The PRC claims its a responsible global power. This bill aims to hold it accountable by asking it to accept great burden sharing for global problems."
Relations between Washington, D.C., and Beijing have been tense for years, as the United States has recalibrated China to be a country of competition, but that relationship sunk to a worrying low last month when the Pentagon shot down a Beijing spy balloon that had traversed the United States.
Days after the shootdown in early February, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution to condemn China over the spy balloon.
The vote also comes on the heels of a bipartisan select committee on China competition holding its first meeting late last month and amid growing scrutiny of the Chinese-owned TikTok social media platform over national security fears that U.S. data it harvests could end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.