U.S. senators laid out major bipartisan legislation, dubbed the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, which focuses heavily on contesting the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) increasing global hegemony.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), said that the legislation, negotiated with Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), represents the first major proposal to bring Democrats and Republicans together in efforts to challenge Beijing and assure that the United States is positioned to compete with China across all dimensions of national and international power for decades to come.
The 280-page Act is scheduled for debate and voting in the SFRC on April 14. Menendez says he is confident the Act will pass the Committee and move on for a full hearing in the Senate.
“I am incredibly proud to announce this unprecedented bipartisan effort to mobilize all U.S. strategic, economic, and diplomatic tools for an Indo-Pacific strategy that will allow our nation to truly confront the challenges China poses to our national and economic security,” said Sen. Menendez according to SCMP.
Menendez described the legislation as “a recognition that this moment demands a unified, strategic response that can rebuild American leadership, invest in our ability to out-compete China, and reground diplomacy in our core values.”
The New Jersey Senator said lawmakers “must be clear-eyed and sober about Beijing’s intentions and actions, and calibrate our policy and strategy accordingly.”
The bill stresses “enhancing the US-Taiwan partnership, to recognize Taiwan as a vital part of the United States Indo-Pacific strategy,” and mentions that there’s no place for “any restrictions on the ability of officials of the Department of State and other United States Government agencies to interact directly and routinely with counterparts in the Taiwan government.”
The text of the Act also calls on the inclusion of Taiwan in the United Nations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rebuked the legislation during an April 9 press conference, “Relevant individuals on the US side should view China and China-U.S. relations in an objective and rational light and stop pushing the negative bill concerning China.”
“Our position on China-US relations and issues relating to trade, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are clear and consistent. I reiterate that China is committed to developing a relationship with the U.S. featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” said Zhao.
Zhao also said the CCP will continue to “firmly safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests” in response to the Act.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou expressed thanks to the U.S. for the Senate’s show of support, adding Taiwan would be paying close attention to the development of the legislation.
The draft goes further to include prioritizing the Indo-Pacific region in foreign policy, allocates resources for “political and military objectives in the region,” and says it is looking to strengthen “alliances and partnerships” in both the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asian regions.
The bill also calls for sanctions against Chinese officials accused of “forced labour, forced sterilisation and other abuses in Xinjiang.”
Another feature in the Act is increased reporting requirements on:
- The exploitation of Hong Kong by the Chinese government in circumventing U.S. laws and regulations;
- Diplomatic outreach with respect to overseas Chinese military installations;
- Efforts to engage China on nuclear and ballistic missile issues;
- Chinese influence in international organizations; and
- The origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill also calls for the US to offer greater support and cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to oppose any country that prevents other countries from exercising their sovereign rights and enforcing claims to those areas in the South China Sea.