A congressional reassessment of American policy toward China is expected to get under way in earnest early next month.
In a 365-65 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday creating a special Select Committee on China. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tapped Republican Representative Mike Gallagher to chair the committee’s work.
"A lot of people are interested. I spoke to the Republican caucus this morning, and a lot of people have expressed interest. I'm optimistic that we're going to have a pretty serious group of members with a broad range of experience that's relevant to the issues we're facing right now,” Gallagher said in an interview with VOA Mandarin.
Gallagher told VOA the committee expects to hold its first hearing in early to mid-February and will comprise a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
“The Democrats who have expressed interest in joining me are people I respect and have experience that would be a good fit for this committee,” he said.
White House response
The White House said Wednesday it looked forward to working with Democrats and Republicans on the committee regarding an issue that is a top priority for the administration.
“Under President Biden we are more prepared to outcompete China, protect our national security and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific than ever before,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
In a floor speech ahead of the vote, McCarthy said, "We spent decades passing policies that welcomed China into the global system. In return, China has exported oppression, aggression and anti-Americanism. Today, the power of its military and economy are growing at the expense of freedom and democracy worldwide.”
McCarthy said the committee will be scrutinizing policies that should be changed.
“It didn’t start under this administration, but the current administration has clearly made it worse. Their policies have weakened our economy and made us more vulnerable to threats from the CCP,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. “But here’s the good news — there is bipartisan consensus that the era of trusting Communist China is over.”
A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry had a muted response Wednesday to the creation of the committee. Wang Wenbin told reporters at a routine news conference that he hopes U.S. politicians will view relations with Beijing “in an objective and rational way” and will work on policies benefiting both countries.
A commentary published Wednesday in the state-backed Global Times newspaper took a more skeptical view, accusing the committee of having a “strong ideological undertone” and worried it could stoke “anti-China public opinion.”
The new speaker said the idea for a bipartisan committee to investigate all aspects of the U.S. relationship with China — from economics to COVID-19 — came to him while on a diplomatic trip commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, a key turning point in World War II.
The resolution creating the committee passed with significant support from Democrats.
“House Democrats will work in a serious, sober and strategic manner to evaluate our relationship with the Chinese government and to address the rise of authoritarianism globally,” said Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in a statement after the vote. “House Democrats will firmly speak out against xenophobic rhetoric and conspiracy theories should this committee devolve into extreme MAGA Republican talking points that further anti-Asian hate crimes in this country.”
Jeffries succeeded former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as leader of House Democrats at the start of the 118th Congress.
In a statement Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul said the committee would build on the work undertaken by Republicans during the 117th Congress on the House China Task Force.
“The Republican House is laser-focused on the CCP as an existential threat to our nation,” he said. “The select committee is also an opportunity for House Democrats to finally join bipartisan efforts to counter the CCP, which they declined to do on the China Task Force.”
VOA Mandarin journalist Yi-Hua Lee contributed to this report.