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Biden, Xi summit

U.S. President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Groups Warn US Lawmakers Against Fueling 'New Cold War' With China

A policy of hostility toward Beijing, says a global justice advocate, has "become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda."

Jessica Corbett

Ahead of congressional negotiations on a key technology bill, 32 global justice groups on Friday demanded revisions to the pending legislation that will encourage the United States and China to "resolve bilateral and global challenges through dialogue and cooperation, rather than conflict and one-upmanship."

"In its current form USICA is one-sidedly confrontational."

The organizations' letter to lawmakers focuses on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which passed the Senate with bipartisan support last June and would pour billions of dollars into American manufacturing and technology research to boost competition with China.

The Chinese government has openly criticized and lobbied against the USICA because, as Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin put it last year, the bill "distorts the facts" and "smears China's development path and domestic and foreign policies."

The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the bill's sponsor; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).

Spearheaded by Justice Is Global, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and Win Without War, the letter states:

We recognize the value of provisions aimed at supporting domestic manufacturing and science, and share many of the concerns around the increasingly authoritarian Chinese government that motivate the authors of USICA, particularly the deteriorating human rights situation in China.

Unfortunately, however, in its current form USICA is one-sidedly confrontational. It advocates an approach that is likely to exacerbate nationalism in China, while feeding the mutually destructive security competition underway between the U.S. and China and undermining the urgent need to enhance bilateral cooperation around shared global challenges including climate change, pandemics, and global poverty.

Noting the need for collective action on such issues, Justice Is Global director Tobita Chow said in a statement Friday that "cooperation between the U.S. and China is particularly crucial. U.S. policymakers must recognize this reality rather than unnecessarily deepening international divisions through a strategy of zero-sum competition and containment."

The groups encourage lawmakers who participate in the conference process for the legislation to amend "approaches that focus on competition and conflict at the expense of cooperation and reassurance, by embracing a framework of zero-sum rivalry and containment."

The coalition also calls for cutting from the bill policies that promote an arms race with China, pressure other nations to "make an us-or-them choice," and "unnecessarily inflame tensions in the Taiwan Strait."

Along with proposing cuts, the organizations argue the legislation should explicitly express support for human rights in China as well as U.S.-Chinese "cooperation to provide universal global public goods" and "engagement to reform the global economy."

They further advocate for including "enforceable human rights controls" for U.S. arms sales and military aid as well as support for arms control negotiations, safety protocols, and "confidence-building measures" regarding Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.

"There are very real challenges to work out between the United States and China," Win Without War president Stephen Miles said in a statement. "But the maximally aggressive approach that dominates the foreign policy establishment today won't get us there."

"'Combating China' has simply become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda that, in reality, actively undermines national security and human rights in the United States and China alike," he added. "We need a new approach, not a new Cold War."

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