Several leading progressives in Congress are reportedly pushing legislative branch colleagues — and President Joe Biden — to steer clear of anti-China policies, warning that rhetoric critical of the Communist country could encourage racism against Asian Americans and possibly lead to a Cold War with Beijing.
"We need to be clear-eyed in understanding that China today, led by the Communist Party and propelled by [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s hyper-nationalism, is unlike any challenge we have faced as a nation before," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who recently introduced the Strategic Competition Act. "If we are to develop a regional and international order consistent with progressive values, then we must be realistic about the China we have, not the China we want to have."
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., urged U.S. leaders to tread lightly when criticizing China, Politico reported.
"We need to distinguish between justified criticisms of the Chinese government’s human rights record and a Cold War mentality that uses China as a scapegoat for our own domestic problems and demonizes Chinese Americans," Omar said.
She added that, while the U.S. should hold China accountable for its human rights abuses, the U.S. must be careful in how it acts, claiming Xi has borrowed U.S. strategies such as mass surveillance and hyping the threat of Islamic radicalism to justify the arbitrary detention of citizens.
"So we’re also overdue for a serious reckoning with the way our own war on terror language has been used by Xi and others to commit the gravest of human rights violations," Omar said.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., noted that while he has sponsored Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Endless Frontier Act, and still supports its provisions that would improve technological research and production, he "strongly reject[s] any anti-China rhetoric associated with this bill, and we must be vigilant about the impacts of such rhetoric on AAPI communities at a time of increased hate crimes."
"We won't be able to solve the challenges of the 21st century — like the climate crisis and global health — unless we have relationships that harness partnerships across the globe, including China," Bowman said.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., the co-founder of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus added that "our defense budget is already 3.5 times the size of China’s — we’re on track to spend $530 billion more than China on defense spending this year. We don’t need more money towards military buildups abroad — we need to prioritize diplomacy in our foreign policy."
"Progressives are cautioning against falling into the trap of treating conflict with China as a way to build bipartisan unity," said Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. "We should listen now about the potential impact of a new U.S.-China Cold War."
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