BY JAMIL N. JAFFER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
February 28, 2023
Wang Ye/Xinhua via AP
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, leads members of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party central committee on Oct. 27, 2022.
Tonight marks the first public hearing of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. And it could not come at a more critical time. Tensions between the U.S. and China are running high, with the White House last week accusing China of preparing to covertly supply Russia with arms for its war in Ukraine, and China responding by calling the U.S. hypocritical and saying it would not be coerced by American pressure.
And all of this comes just a few weeks after the American fighter jets shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. While an actual shooting war between the United States and China may not be imminent, these incidents highlight the very real threat posed to our nation’s security by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The fact is that while these incidents might be more tangible, they are just the most recent examples of a longstanding threat. We’ve known for many years that China has robbed the U.S. of trillions of dollars by pilfering American know-how and technology through theft, extensive hacking, and extortion of American companies operating in China. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, every American learned about our massive reliance on China for basic needs, including personal protective equipment and pharmaceutical precursors.
We also have long known about the CCP’s bad behavior at home, including its extensive repression of religious and ethnic minorities, from Christians to Buddhists. We know about the Chinese government’s use of its “social credit system” to punish those who cross the CCP. And we know about the million-plus Uyghur Muslims held in modern-day Gulags for “reeducation.”
But even more worrying than what China is doing at home is what it is doing abroad. Today, China seeks to expand its domestic repression abroad. From the building of militarized islands in the South China Sea, to the massive air incursions over Taiwan, border skirmishes with India, and threats against American allies across the Indo-Pacific region, the CCP isn’t just focused inside of China; it is expanding its repression globally. Indeed, the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative, while masquerading as an economic development program, is actually a tool for massive economic theft and political coercion, designed to supply the Chinese government with resources and jobs for its population, while addicting developing nations to Chinese financing that they can’t possibly repay.
Worse still, the CCP’s effort to shape the political and economic environment in its favor doesn’t stop at the borders of the U.S. Sadly, more and more American institutions are subject to Chinese Communist Party pressure. One need look no further than the CCP’s use of economic leverage to get the NBA — once an iconic American institution — to cower and threaten its own players, coaches and executives for having the temerity to speak out against China’s atrocious human rights record. The NBA’s corporate behavior is a national shame that deserves not just to be called out, but to be punished by its American fan base.
Likewise, one need only look at the massive number of American educational institutions that, until recently, hosted Confucius Institutes, still allow other Chinese influence organizations to operate on campus, and take massive anonymous donations from China.
And one need only read about the multiple indictments of American citizens, including university faculty members, who are secretly on the payroll of the CCP, helping China steal intellectual property and collect economic and political intelligence here in the U.S.
And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ve learned in recent months that the CCP isn’t content with indirectly coercing our public and private institutions. We’ve learned that the Chinese government runs so-called “police stations” in New York and elsewhere, designed to threaten American and Chinese nationals alike with family consequences if they don’t toe the Communist Party line. We’ve likewise learned about the purchase of huge amounts of American farmland and property near strategically important military and port facilities by CCP-affiliated companies, as well as the CCP’s use of technology, including through companies such as Huawei and TikTok, to collect massive amounts of data on Americans, used to train machine-learning algorithms for use against us in the future.
All this means that the Select Committee’s work could not be more important to our national security. Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) recently appeared together to highlight the bipartisan nature of the committee’s work. According to these leaders, they plan to highlight the existential threat posed by the CCP to our nation, our people and our values. They also will highlight the CCP’s massive military buildup, including plans for a more than 400-ship Navy, nearly a quarter bigger than ours, and the tripling of its nuclear forces, already the third largest in the world. They will highlight America’s reliance on China for goods and supplies that are at the core of our continued economic success, from semiconductors to critical minerals.
And, perhaps most importantly, they plan to explain that this struggle is not between the United States and the people of China, nor is it about Chinese Americans. Rather, it is between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, and it is about the CCP’s brutal repression of its own people, its export of this repression abroad, and its threats against the United States and our allies across the globe.
Given all this, tonight’s hearing and its kickoff of the committee’s work over the next two years to develop forward leaning and innovative policy ideas is a critical first step in getting our nation to the right place on these important matters. Now is the time to tune in, America.
Jamil N. Jaffer is the founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. He previously served as chief counsel and senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, among other things, as an associate counsel to President George W. Bush in the White House. Follow him on Twitter @jamil_n_jaffer.