Washington: Two powerful US senators have introduced a major bipartisan comprehensive legislation that seeks to boost the country’s ability to out-compete China, endorses the Quad initiative and calls for deepening America’s bilateral and regional partnerships, including with India.
The Strategic Competition Act of 2021 mobilises all US strategic, economic, and diplomatic tools for an Indo-Pacific strategy that will allow America to truly confront the challenges China poses to its national and economic security, Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.
Menendez along with Ranking Member Jim Risch introduced the legislation, which runs into more than 280 pages.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to take up the bill for discussion and voting on April 14, following which it is quickly expected to move to the Senate floor.
The Strategic Competition Act of 2021 is a recognition that this moment demands a unified, strategic response that can rebuild American leadership, invest in our ability to out-compete China, and reground diplomacy in our core values, Menendez said.
The legislation alleges that China capitalised on the world’s focus on the COVID 19 pandemic by its brazen move in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and contributing to increased tensions with India.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the area.
The border standoff between the armies of India and China erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
Observing that the US greatly values partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, including with India, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Vietnam as well as regional architecture such as the Quad, ASEAN and APEC, the bill seeks to strengthen and deepen America’s bilateral and regional partnerships, including with India, Taiwan, ASEAN, and New Zealand.
The US should reaffirm its commitment to quadrilateral cooperation among Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to enhance and implement a shared vision to meet shared regional challenges and to promote a free, open, inclusive, resilient, and healthy Indo-Pacific that is characterised by democracy, rule-of-law, and market-driven economic growth and is free from undue influence and coercion, it said.
The United States should reaffirm its commitment to the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with India and further deepen bilateral defence consultations and collaboration with India commensurate with its status as a major defence partner, the bill said.
The bill among other things asks the administration that it in close consultation with India, identify areas where the US government can provide diplomatic and other support as appropriate for India’s efforts to address economic and security challenges posed by China.
The United States government must be clear-eyed and sober about Beijing’s intentions and actions and calibrate our policy and strategy accordingly. I am confident that this effort has the necessary support to be overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week and the full Senate shortly thereafter, Menendez said.
That is the only way we will get the China challenge right a bipartisan commitment to mutual trust and good-faith compromise, balancing pragmatism and idealism, and a shared dedication to finally solving one of toughest challenges our nation faces, he said.
Ranking Member Risch said that the introduction of this legislation is one important step towards ensuring the United States is postured to compete with China for decades to come. This bill tackles the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s political influence across the globe, and importantly, in the US university system, he said.
The bill bolsters the US diplomatic strategy in addressing challenges posed by the Chinese government and reaffirms America’s commitment to its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world and calls for the US to reassert its leadership within international organizations and other multilateral fora.
It renews America’s commitment to allies and partners by prioritising security assistance for the Indo-Pacific region and strengthens US diplomatic efforts to address challenges posed by China in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Arctic, and Oceania.
The bill seeks to invest in universal values, authorising a broad range of human rights and civil society measures including supporting democracy in Hong Kong and imposing sanctions for forced labour, forced sterilisation, and other abuses in Xinjiang.
It focuses on countering and confronting China’s predatory international economic behaviour and includes measures to track intellectual property violators, Chinese government subsidies, monitor Chinese use of Hong Kong to circumvent US export controls and track the presence of Chinese companies in US capital markets.
It directs the US to provide technical assistance to countries working to counter foreign corrupt practices and debt relief to the poorest countries who have requested forbearance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill calls for enhanced coordination and cooperation with allies on arms control in the face of China’s military modernisation and expansion, and requires reporting on Chinese ballistic, hypersonic glide, and cruise missiles, conventional forces, nuclear, space, cyberspace and other strategic domains.
It also seeks a detailed description of US diplomatic efforts with Pakistan on matters relevant to China including investments by Beijing in Pakistan through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chine