National Security

Senate Holds Hearing on Countering Chinese Influence, Human-Rights Abuses

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs conducted a hearing Wednesday to address potential steps the U.S. government might take to address the threat the Chinese Communist Party regime poses to the United States and other global democracies.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.), asked witnesses to identify measures needed to curb China’s control over health care and technological supply chains and Chinese companies taking advantage of U.S. patents and property-rights protections. The senators discussed the Chinese Communist Party's human-rights abuses, including the use of artificial intelligence and mass surveillance to spy on their citizens and slave labor in Chinese factories.

Cotton condemned China's use of slave labor and said the regime "is the most formidable enemy the United States has faced in living memory."

The Economic Policy subcommittee is working on a report outlining steps the United States should take to compete with China. Other government leaders, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and FBI director Chris Wray, have taken steps to address the threat China poses to U.S. national security. Last week, Pompeo called for democratically governed states to form a coalition opposing Chinese influence and violations of international standards.

At Wednesday's hearing, Hudson Institute fellow Walter Russell Mead told the Senate panel that threats from China and Russia should be taken seriously.

"The U.S. relationship with a revisionist, and possibly revolutionary, neo-communist China cannot be business as usual," Mead said. "Countries like China and Russia that claim they are actively seeking to undermine U.S. interest and counter U.S. values need to be taken at their word."

Some senators said the United States should invest in building 5G and artificial intelligence as part of American infrastructure in order to disentangle U.S. markets from China’s technological supply chains.

"China is attempting to displace the United States as a leader in high-tech sectors, but China doesn't play by the rules of the road,"  Sen. Cortez Masto said. "It subsidizes state-owned enterprises, restricts market access, steals U.S. intellectual property … and uses new technologies to suppress their own people."

On Wednesday, the United States announced it had ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston closed "to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information." China responded Wednesday morning, threatening retaliation.