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House Lawmakers Form Bipartisan Task Force to Combat China’s Influence in Indo-Pacific

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has announced the formation of a task force to combat China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

During a press conference at the House Triangle in Washington, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced the creation of the new task force.

Westerman said, “There is perhaps no greater threat to America’s national security and future prosperity than the continued growth of the People’s Republic of China and its influence on the world stage.”

The lawmakers said the task force would combat long-term Chinese state strategies to dominate the Indo-Pacific region, which includes several U.S. territories like the American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CMNI), and Guam, as well as Pacific partners including the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, which are collectively dubbed the Freely Associated States. The region is also home to international partners like Japan, India, and South Korea.

In a press release, the committee said that communist China, formally known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), “has increasingly sought to reshape regional political, economic, and strategic alignments.”

They said the PRC “has sought to take advantage of the relatively weak economies of island nations. Through offerings of economic aid and infrastructure development, the PRC has leveraged its resources to shape political outcomes and perceptions of the U.S. in the region while waging political warfare to gain undue influence and/or destabilize island nations.”

As part of its strategy, China has sought to expand its military presence in the region, exploiting commercial agreements with regional neighbors in order to establish new military installations across the Indo-Pacific. China has also long been accused of stealing resources in the South China Sea from others in the area.

Concerns also linger that China’s ruling communist party (CCP) will put its considerable military might to the test and try to invade Taiwan, a self-governing liberal democratic island nation that the CCP wants to claim as its own. In April, China conducted another series of military drills that commentators say are intended to intimidate its rivals.

As Russia and China grow closer in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. national security officials and lawmakers alike have become increasingly alarmed by the threat posed by China in the Indo-Pacific.

Westerman said, “The PRC has built a strategy to dominate the island nations and U.S. territories in the Pacific as a platform for the projection of its power.”

“This strategy is a direct threat to our influence and economic interests in the region.

“To turn a blind eye to the Indo-Pacific at best irresponsible, and at worst, a national security disaster,” Westerman said.

He called the creation of the task force “an essential step in understanding all the issues at play so we can better curtail the Chinese government’s growing influence and strengthen and maintain America’s relationship with the Freely Associated States.”

“We will not play their game,” Westerman said.

“We need to prepare ourselves,” said Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), who will co-chair the task force.

Grijalva called the U.S. relationship with the Freely Associated Staes “critical to our national security, especially as we face mounting encroachment and aggression by the People’s Republic of China.”

Del. Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa) applauded the launch of the task force.

“This task force is a strong sign that Congress has focused on this key region and we understand the deep concerns regarding China’s ambitions in the Pacific Islands,” Radewagen said.

The 14 member task force will be equally divided between Democrat and Republican members. Other members of the group will include Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Jim Moylan (R-Guam), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

The bipartisan action comes as Congress ramps up its focus on China.

In December 2022, the Senate passed a bill banning the use of TikTok, a Chinese-owned app that’s prompted fears of data-harvesting Americans, on government devices.

Another bill currently being considered would effectively ban TikTok in the United States over the same concerns.

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