The Cable

China bashing on Capitol Hill is a bipartisan affair

Just as President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao were trumpeting the strength and importance of the U.S.-China relationship on the White House’s South Lawn, a bipartisan group of lawmakers were harshly criticizing the Chinese government from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. "As China’s newest emperor has just landed in Washington and is at ...

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Just as President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao were trumpeting the strength and importance of the U.S.-China relationship on the White House’s South Lawn, a bipartisan group of lawmakers were harshly criticizing the Chinese government from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

"As China’s newest emperor has just landed in Washington and is at the front lawn of the White House, the pressing issues which separate our countries need to be urgently addressed," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the new head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing on China. "When the Cold War ended over two decades ago, many in the West assumed that the threat from communism had been buried with the rubble of the Berlin Wall. However, while America slept, an authoritarian China was on the rise."

She said China is led by "cynical leaders" who have rejected political reform, allowed sanctions- busting weapons transfers to Iran, unfairly claimed ownership of international waters, suppressed human rights for its ethnic minority citizens, and jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife.

Former committee chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) took a somewhat more balanced tone, calling China "neither an ally nor an enemy," but also focused his opening remarks on China’s failure to adhere to sanctions against Iran, its refusal to pressure North Korea to halt its nuclear program, and its lack of respect for human rights.

"There is ample evidence that Chinese entities continue to invest in Iran’s energy sector. This helps Tehran avoid the full impact of sanctions and facilitates Iran’s continued development of a nuclear weapons capability which threatens the U.S., our allies in the Middle East and China, which is dependent on stable sources of oil from the Middle East," Berman said. "We must intensify our efforts to ensure China’s full participation in the multilateral sanctions regime against Iran."

On Tuesday, Berman joined Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) to call on Chinese companies to halt their business with Iran’s energy sector lest they be penalized under the recently-passed U.S. sanctions legislation signed into law by Obama last July.

The witnesses at the hearing were Larry Wortzel, commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Gordon Chang, a columnist at Forbes.com, Yang Jianli, the founder and president of the pro-democracy committee Initiatives for China who was previously imprisoned by the Chinese regime, and Robert Sutter, a professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Each witness was prepared to criticize a different aspect of Chinese behavior. Wortzel focused on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and called for the U.S. to sell advance fighter planes to Taiwan.

"China’s national interests are global and the PLA is becoming a force capable of acting beyond China’s periphery. A more capable military accompanies a more assertive Chinese foreign policy. This can be seen in China’s recent provocative activities concerning its disputed territorial claims in the south and east China seas and in its exclusive economic zone," he said.

Chang argued that China’s trade surplus vis-à-vis the United States and its massive holdings of U.S. debt do not represent a strategic advantage for Beijing.

"China’s trade dependence on us gives us enormous leverage because China’s not a free trader. China has accumulated its surpluses because of real clear violations of its obligations under the World Trade Organization," he explained.

Yang covered China’s human rights violations, including its jailing of Liu and its persecution of ethnic Uighurs and Tibetans.

"In addition to the official prison system, it is practically public knowledge that in China there exist hundreds of black jails established and run by local governments of various levels. These prisons take in numerous innocent petitioners arbitrarily," Yang alleged.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the chairman-designate of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, concluded the proceedings with some ole’ fashioned China bashing, calling Hu a murderer of children.

"This is wrong. We should not be granting monstrous regimes that are engaged with massive human rights abuses — and in this case the world’s worst human rights abuser is being welcomed to our White House with respect," Rohrabacher said.

"The people of China are America’s greatest allies — the people of China who want democracy, the people of China who want to respect human rights, and are looking forward to a more humane system at peace with the world. Those are our allies. What do we do to them when we welcome their oppressor, their murderer, the one who’s murdering their children here to the United States with such respect?"

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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