On July 20, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on “U.S.-European Cooperation on China and the Broader Indo-Pacific.” Members of two subcommittees made statements and asked questions to four expert witnesses, covering a wide range of issues related to potential U.S.-EU cooperation in this area. In this post, we highlight some of the more interesting statements and questions/answers during the hearing, to give a sense of how key members of Congress and a variety of think tank experts see these issues. The full text of some excerpts of these statements or exchanges is at the bottom of the post.
Several members of Congress were quite hawkish about the threat posed by China and the Chinese Communist Party. Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) stated that the CCP is no longer hiding “their goal to impose their authoritarian model of governance on the rest of the world and crush the free and open rules based international order”; Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) explained that “[t]oday we will focus on how to build transatlantic unity to counter the greatest threat of our time: The Chinese Communist Party“; and Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA) stated, “[t]he threat posed by the People's Republic of China represents the foremost existential challenge to the United States, Europe, and the rules based international order.” Along the same lines, witness Peter Rough of the Hudson Institute argued: “The challenge of our time is to defend free and open societies from malicious actors in an era of globalization. And by far the most formidable of these threats is the PRC.”
The focus of the hearing was U.S.-EU cooperation on issues related to China. As Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA) explained: “The question now is how the United States and Europe can coordinate and cooperate to maximize the impact of their policies together in the Indo Pacific region.”
With regard to this cooperation, there was general agreement among the witnesses that this cooperation was vital. Matt Goodman of CSIS offered this view: “Americans and Europeans don't agree on everything, but there is a growing convergence of views on the shared interests and values we have at stake in the Indo Pacific.” And Peter Rough of Hudson said: “It is important that the US forge as large a zone of free and independent countries that are aligned on China policy as possible.” At the same time, witness Heather Conley of CSIS noted that: “Tough allied love must be administered by the US from time to time to our allies,” but also that “the US must deeply invest diplomatically and economically in Europe because a weaker Europe will be much more susceptible to Chinese and Russian influence and unable to support the US in its policy objectives.” And Matt Ferchen of the Mercator Institute for China Studies offered these words of caution: “Any effort by the US to explicitly frame cooperation with European partners in the Indo Pacific as part of an anti-China coalition will likely receive a frosty response in Europe.”
There was concern from some members of Congress about whether the EU would be a reliable ally here. In this regard, Congressman Chabot said: “despite acknowledging the PRC as a systematic rival, the EU agreed to enter into a new investment agreement with China at the end of last year, further tying Europe to a regime willing to use any economic length as a tool of coercion.”
During the Q & A portion, among other topics, there was discussion of whether the US and EU should “expect that China will become more involved in regions which they were not normally involved in the past.” In response, Goodman noted that China's current outreach to South America and Africa was mostly about securing resources, which increases China's vulnerability because China does not have “a global footprint of ... bases and allies and military capabilities.” As China may start looking to expand its footprint, the U.S. should work with allies to offer “more appealing" choices to these countries.
There was also a question about the status of Taiwan in international organizations, and how to bring Europe on board. Rough responded that the “repercussions [of raising the Taiwan issue] is very high” and therefore “there are hesitations there, and today the Europeans have only been willing to go so far.”
Excerpts from Hearing Transcript
Steve Chabot (R-OH):
Xi Jinping has emerged as the most power hungry leader of the PRC since Mao Zedong, and under his regime, the Chinese Communist Party isn't even trying anymore, its goal of imposing, it's not, it's not making it a secret anymore, they're not trying to hide it, their goal to impose their authoritarian model of governance on the rest of the world and crush the free and open rules based international order. Indeed, Xi has advertised the CCPs totalitarianism as "a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development.” While the CCP foreign policy chief has publicly ridiculed what he refers to as “the so called international order championed by a few countries.” In the face of this challenge, the United States and Europe need to stand together once again to defend the democratic order that our parents and grandparents sacrificed so much to defend.
On his first foreign trip last month President Biden sought to rally our European allies in support of his efforts to confront the CCP. We saw growing recognition of the threat posed by the CCP in the joint statements and communications that came out of the G7, NATO and the US-EU summits. … Yet without serious commitments from our European allies this initiative will be ineffectual, enabling the CCP to continue buying political influence through investments and trade across the globe. Unfortunately, despite acknowledging the PRC as a systematic rival, the EU agreed to enter into a new investment agreement with China at the end of last year, further tying Europe to a regime willing to use any economic length as a tool of coercion. … I really do look forward to hearing from our expert witnesses here today on additional concrete steps that the alliance can take. We must work together with our allies across the Atlantic to ensure that democracies prevail over the threat posed by the CCP.
Bill Keating (D-MA)
We could talk for much of the time that we're allotted today on many of the pitfalls of a rising China, but we also need to take action. That's why the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the EAGLE Act or the markup last week to be voted on the House floor. This comprehensive piece of legislation calls for the real revitalization of American diplomacy, leadership and investments globally in response to the policy changes posed by China.
The question now is how the United States and Europe can coordinate and cooperate to maximize the impact of their policies together in the Indo Pacific region. To answer this critical question my colleagues and I have invited a group of incredibly knowledgeable experts with diverse ranges of professional experiences.
Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
Today we will focus on how to build transatlantic unity to counter the greatest threat of our time: The Chinese Communist Party.
Heather A. Conley, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Written statement)
First, we have a unique opportunity to strategically reposition the Atlantic world to meet the China challenge, but our allies can't be viewed as burdens to bear, but as the unique strategic assets that they present to the United States. But harnessing the strategic asset is not going to be easy, and most importantly, we can't conduct Transatlantic business as usual.
Tough allied love must be administered by the US from time to time to our allies. We shouldn't shy away from making tough and difficult points. And finally the US must deeply invest diplomatically and economically in Europe because a weaker Europe will be much more susceptible to Chinese and Russian influence and unable to support the US in its policy objectives.
Matthew P. Goodman, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Written statement)
I just want to make one basic point, which is that the United States needs a credible and affirmative economic strategy in the Indo Pacific region. I say that for three reasons. First of all, because that's where the money is, as Willie Sutton might have said. Second, because we have critical strategic interests in the Indo Pacific that our military presence alone can't address, it needs to be complemented with a long term economic commitment to the region. And third, because it is in the Indo Pacific that economic rules and norms are most fiercely contested, and where we have to up our game.
Americans and Europeans don't agree on everything, but there is a growing convergence of views on the shared interests and values we have at stake in the Indo Pacific. ... Let me just single out two promising areas of cooperation from the long list of important issues discussed at those summits. First, the establishment of US-EU Trade and Technology Council provides an important platform to align transatlantic views and policies on protecting and promoting critical technologies, supply chains, and importantly on data governance. The rules around data and in particular data flows and privacy and security of data are critical, and the US and EU need to find common ground in this area, and then align with partners in the Indo Pacific. A second promising area of cooperation from the Biden trip was infrastructure, as has been mentioned. as you know G7 leaders agreed to launch a new build back better world or B3W initiative. In essence, B3W is about offering a high standard, transparent alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative in meeting the $40 trillion plus of needed infrastructure in the developing world.
Matt Ferchen, Mercator Institute for China Studies (Written statement)
Let me close on a more sobering note about the most important potential stumbling block in US-European collaboration in the Indo Pacific. Any effort by the US to explicitly frame cooperation with European partners in the Indo Pacific as part of an anti-China coalition will likely receive a frosty response in Europe. Effective-US European cooperation in the Indo Pacific, and on China, require deft diplomacy, and above all, a solid understanding of complex realities within the Indo Pacific region itself.
Peter Rough, Hudson Institute (Written statement)
The challenge of our time is to defend free and open societies from malicious actors in an era of globalization. And by far the most formidable of these threats is the PRC. China is moving aggressively to assert dominance of the international system. In particular, it seeks to master the critical technologies that will determine the future balance of power, a goal it pursues through theft of intellectual property on a mass scale, an unprecedented scale, in defiance of global trading rules.
It is important that the US forge as large a zone of free and independent countries that are aligned on China policy as possible. In that vein, the Biden administration must not lose sight of the Europe that exists beyond Brussels and Berlin.
Other Member Statements and Q & A
David Cicilline (D-RI)
We've seen recently a willingness of China to increasingly become more adversarial, including in regions traditionally outside their sphere of influence, including Cuba. And my question is, should the US and Europe expect that China will become more involved in regions which they were not normally involved in the past, and if so, how should we think about working together to really prepare for that kind of involvement?
That's a difficult question, Congressman, because China, on the one hand, has not shown historically -- I mean deeply historically, like 1000s of years -- interest in going too far beyond its sort of immediate sphere of influence, within the sort of greater Asian region. Some counter examples, but in large part they've been more interested in sort of their position in the Asia Pacific. They are through Belt and Road, through other means in supporting Venezuela, Cuba as you say, they have sort of been reaching out. Partly, this is because they need resources. So, Venezuela, I think was part of that. The Africa play is a lot of their need to get access directly to resources as they see it, they think that's an important strategic play. The problem for them is that that really extends their vulnerability, their risk, and they don't have, unlike us, they don't have a global footprint of, you know, bases and allies and military capabilities, and they've gotten themselves in trouble. So there's a bit of a shyness too about going too far out on a limb there. But they've built a base in Djibouti, they're starting to look at extending that capability, and I think that is something that we have to be very alert to working with allies to ensure that the countries that are being subject to influence have, again, an alternative offering from us, that is more appealing than what China's offering.
Scott Perry (R-PA)
The threat posed by the People's Republic of China represents the foremost existential challenge to the United States, Europe, and the rules based international order. But to me there is a clear lack of consensus on the question and even more so across the Atlantic. To me, it's a sobering indication that the CCP's intention to create division among Western allies is actually working. China has been able to leverage its investment in Europe, including through the Belt and Road investments in Greece, Serbia, Hungary, and even Italy, to weaken the resolve of our EU partners. The CCP's outsized influence in the German economy has caused a long serving chancellor to take a decidedly soft track on China for fear of upsetting bilateral trade and investment relations. Notably Germany is in this position in large part due to the Chancellor's disastrous, energy, wind, rapid decarbonisation policy. Germany's policies left them wholly reliant upon the CCP for the component minerals necessary to make solar panels, batteries and windmills. As other nations push forward with this technically infeasible Net Zero policy being discussed on both sides of the Atlantic, they will suffer the same fate.
Kathy Manning (D-NC)
You said earlier in your comments that the major EU countries are reevaluating the impact of China, the need to balance economic needs with security concerns and geopolitical concerns. And you mentioned that any effort to frame this new strategic cooperation as anti China will receive a frosty reception in the EU. So can you elaborate on that a little bit?
I think it's hard enough for the EU as the EU to come together on any specific China policies. I think you'll see that, for example, investment screening policies, or the EU-Asia connectivity strategy, which are both nominally about China, don't really say much about China. So it's very difficult to get consensus at the EU level on anything related to China, especially if it's a strong push back. There's just so many different views within the EU, so many different structural relationships, economically and otherwise, that it's very difficult for the EU to come to an agreement that any kind of policy is going to be focused on China, especially if it's in some sense antagonistic toward China. That isn't that they won't adopt certain policies, and some that are very much in line with US interests. It's that the framing as overtly against China or adversarial toward China will just not fly.
Young Kim (R-CA)
We have seen Taiwan repeatedly muscled out of observer status and many international organizations, including WHO. Earlier this year I introduced legislation that would direct our State Department to push for Taiwan's inclusion at the WHO as an observer, which has garnered widespread bipartisan support with over 120 co-sponsors to date. But we recognize that we will need strong buy in from our European partners as well. So where does Europe stand on this issue?
Thank you very much for that question, I would just start by saying that partnering with the Europeans and international organizations is going to be essential to check China's worst practices when it comes to intellectual property, all the way to the activities at the World Health Organization. We've seen I think a pattern of behavior from Beijing on, say, 5G technologies, where quite a bit has become public about how much pressure is being put on European governments, not to kick Huawei out of its networks for example. Taiwan, near and dear to the heart and soul of the CCP in Beijing, is the 5G issue but on steroids. And so the pressure that is being put to bear that one hears about anecdotally on European governments and on European leaders, not to raise the Taiwan issue, that it will have repercussions in market access to China, is very high. And so I think while there is increased recognition after the crackdown in Hong Kong, the genocide designation that Europe joined in on Xinjiang, all the way to complete denial of international law in the South China Sea, or over the Sino-British 1984 declaration on on Hong Kong, there's recognition that the Taiwanese, especially to the COVID pandemic, have a lot to offer and are a beacon of democracy and a contrast, but there are hesitations there and today the Europeans have only been willing to go so far.