VOA Interview: House Select Committee Hopes to Explain Why China Matters

As Republicans prepare to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, they are looking to put their stamp on a range of issues, including China.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is campaigning to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives, has named Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin to lead a new House Select Committee on China.

Gallagher spoke with VOA Mandarin on December 15 on Capitol Hill about his plans for the new panel, which aims to focus on economic and security competition with China.

A large part of what the new committee will do, Gallagher said, is “explain to our colleagues and by extension the American people why this [China issue] matters. We want to connect … the sort of the geopolitical concerns about China to the day-to-day reality for Americans and explain why this is … the biggest challenge of our time.”

VOA: You are going to lead the new House Committee on China next year. Can you share with us some of your priorities when you start the chairmanship?

Rep. Mike Gallagher: Our first priority right now is just getting the best team together, both in terms of members and not just Republicans, but Republicans and Democrats. I want it to be a group of serious, sober members. I want it to be bipartisan and also just recruiting a good staff.

We want to make sure that we’re enhancing and elevating the discussion on China while also being sensitive to committee jurisdiction for [the] other committees that are already in a lot of space. I mean, Mike McCaul has led the China Task Force and he did a phenomenal job with it. HFAC (House Foreign Affairs Committee) obviously has been on foreign assistance; Taiwan, we don’t want to step in that territory. We just want to … enhance the conversation and maybe pick a few issues where people aren’t paying sufficient attention or aren’t naturally part of the committee’s jurisdiction.

So that’s, one, getting the team together. Two is kind of really mapping out the strategy for public hearings. I think a large part of what we need to do is explain to the American people, explain to our colleagues and by extension the American people, why this matters. I mean, sometimes you think about China’s sort of distant territorial threat or obscure territorial claims in the South and East China Sea, or some obscure discussion about microelectronics or things like that. We want to connect the concerns, the sort of the geopolitical concerns about China to the day-to-day reality for Americans and explain why this is kind of the biggest challenge of our time. So that’s kind of the hearing schedule, and the public conversation we have on China is going to be a big part of that.

I am starting to think through, “What are the deliverables for the committee?” You know, potentially, like an annual report that we put out there. One other function we can play is just sort of collecting and curating all the China-related legislation that gets introduced every single day. I mean, every member of Congress is doing something related to China. What’s the clearinghouse for evaluating that? And then potentially identifying the 10 to 20 priority pieces of legislation that the speaker wants to actually push forward in the next Congress. So those are a few of the early ideas.

VOA: Is there any Democratic member reaching out to you or talking about their interest in joining the committee?

GALLAGHER: There is a lot. I’m not going to name names, but a lot of [members] reached out to me. I hope, I’m very optimistic that it will be bipartisan. You know, last time Democratic leadership wouldn’t let their members participate in the China Task Force. I think we’re past that now. And I’m trying to communicate [that] this is going to be like a bombing practice. It’s going to be serious and we want it to be bipartisan.

VOA: We know there are a lot of issues between the U.S. and China that are very complicated. But what’s the most important issue?

GALLAGHER: I think the most important thing is near-term deterrence with respect to Taiwan. We’ve entered the window of maximum danger. And we want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to find hard power, west of the International Dateline and around Taiwan to prevent the [People’s Liberation Army] from doing something stupid.

The second issue is what I call “economic statecraft” — how do we smartly and selectively decouple when it comes to technology, when it comes to data and when it comes to U.S. dollars? We don’t want American taxpayer dollars or retirement financial security subsidizing China’s military modernization or subsidizing genocide. And part of that is enforcing laws we’ve recently passed, whether it’s the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act or the Export Control Reform Act.

And then the third thing is what I would call ideological competition and human rights. How can we shine a light on some of the malicious practices of the regime and the [Chinese Communist Party’s] abysmal human rights record? And that’s important, so that the American people understand who we’re dealing with.