Two members of Congress have spoken out about their worries that the developing cold war between China and the United States will only worsen if Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping is granted a third term later this month.
Xi is currently anticipated to be elected to an unprecedented third term in office at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Congress, which will be held in Beijing from Oct. 16, potentially signaling a shift toward a lifetime appointment.
Speaking at a virtual roundtable discussion hosted by Politico on Oct. 12, Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) said that the CCP under Xi refuses to adhere to the rules and norms expected of any other nation in the international marketplace.
“I think you’re going to continue to see a movement in the Congress of what I would call a cold war mentality toward China because we’re not seeing the progress that I think is necessary economically or from a trade standpoint and from an IP standpoint,” LaHood said.
“If you look at the forced labor … they continue to engage in, IP theft, forced technology transfers, the massive state subsidies, we continue to talk to them and argue with them about these policies and the excess capacity they’ve had, but they continue to abide by a different set of rules and standards from an economic standpoint.”
To that end, LaHood said that U.S. leadership and its allies must think carefully about what the future relationship with China should look like and how Xi’s authoritarian approach to governing could influence world events in the coming years.
“We have waited, and we have looked for China to make progress on this, and it’s not just us; it’s our allies in Europe and other democracies around the world that have not seen the progress we all have desired,” LaHood said.
“Listen to Xi and what he says. He supports these authoritarian regimes and dictatorships around the world. And what does he really argue? That democracy doesn’t work anymore, that democracy shouldn’t be the future, [and] that we should be more like China.”
Xi Leads Scheme of ‘Transnational Repression’
Speaking at the same event, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) noted that Xi had caused China to lose face with his frequent broken promises on international issues and pursuit of totalitarian repression schemes abroad.
“[Under Xi,] We have seen a complete violation of the agreement with Britain over Hong Kong,” Merkley said. “We have seen massive use of technology to enslave the Uyghurs. We have seen a violation of international waters regarding the Philippines. We have seen the creation of artificial islands extend their claims. We’ve seen the drum beat of a potential aggression towards Taiwan.”
“And outside of China, we’ve seen a lot as well. We have seen economic coercion against intentional companies. We have seen coercion against countries that had policies critical of China. We have seen transnational repression in the form of threatening individuals outside of China.”
Merkley said Xi is “engineering a third term” to consolidate his power over China and labeled his use of mass surveillance and arbitrary detention as a type of “techno-authoritarianism.”
The senator also noted the CCP’s campaign of “transnational repression” abroad, through which it has surveilled, stalked, harassed, intimidated, and plotted violence against those critical of the regime, including U.S. citizens.
Merkley said that China was on a “completely, absolutely different track” under Xi and that the communist leader had taken China down a path of violence and repression that the world feared might go down half a century ago.
When asked what the greatest threat emanating from China is, however, Merkley again pointed to Xi’s transnational repression scheme.
“What [the CCP] is doing outside of China to coerce companies, to coerce governments, and to deliberately threaten individuals, including individuals here in the United States, when they speak out about human rights in China [is the greatest threat],” Merkley said.
“For those who think, is America changing its policy? No. It’s China that has changed its role in the world in a very threatening fashion, violating many of the things that we’ve all feared.”