BY CAITLIN YILEK
February 27, 2023
Washington — The House select committee tasked with examining the "strategic competition" between the U.S. and China is set to hold its first hearing on Tuesday night, with tensions running high in wake of the spy balloon incident and U.S. warnings to China against sending lethal weapons to Russia.
The 7 p.m. hearing will feature four witnesses, including former President Donald Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Trump's former deputy national security adviser and China expert Matthew Pottinger. Tong Yi, who was the secretary to a prominent Chinese dissident and jailed in China for more than two years, and Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, are also set to testify.
Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, the committee's Republican chairman, told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the panel plans to highlight the threats the Chinese Communist Party poses to U.S. interests.
"I think the Chinese spy balloon incident illustrates perfectly that this isn't just an over-there problem," the Republican said. "This isn't just a matter of some obscure territorial claim in the East China Sea. This is a right-here-at-home problem."
The surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month after transiting over the U.S. is the latest flashpoint in tensions between Washington and Beijing and led to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to China.
After President Biden faced criticism from Republicans over his response to the balloon, administration officials revealed that China flew at least three spy balloons over the U.S. during the Trump administration. McMaster and Pottinger are likely to face questions about what, if anything, the Trump administration knew about those incursions.
Tong, meanwhile, has personal experience with China's reeducation camps and alleged human rights abuses, another area of interest for the committee. She was imprisoned for two and a half years for her work with Wei Jingsheng, a human rights activist and dissident involved in the pro-democracy movement. She has since lived in exile in the U.S.
Gallagher said Sunday the committee also hopes to have "a productive conversation with companies that have substantial business interests in China." It's a topic Paul, who's been vocal about increasing domestic manufacturing and reducing China's role in the U.S. economy, is likely to focus on.
"We want to make sure that the power of the Chinese economy is not seducing certain companies into betraying American values," Gallagher said.
Tuesday's hearing will be an early test of whether the committee's work can remain bipartisan. Gallagher and Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the panel's top Democrat, appeared together on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, touting how the committee planned to be in lockstep as it carries out its work.
"I want both sides in some way to look to the committee as the area for the most forward-leaning, innovative, and bipartisan policy and legislation on China," Gallagher said.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed reporting.