What to Watch for the Week Ahead: Feb. 27–March 3
House China Select Committee Holds First Hearing. The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (China Select Committee) will hold its first hearing on Tuesday night. The first hearing will be focused on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) threat to America. Chair Mike Gallagher (R-WI) has said the committee will be focused on exposing “the CCP’s coordinated whole-of-society strategy to undermine American leadership and American sovereignty while working on a bipartisan basis to identify long-overdue, common-sense approaches to counter CCP aggression.” Both Chair Gallagher and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-CA) have said they will be looking into American companies with substantial business ties to China. Brownstein expects the committee to hold one hearing per month and several closed-door sessions throughout this Congress. While the committee does not have any legislative powers, it can make legislative recommendations and it will issue a report on its findings before the end of this Congress.
Worries of China Sending Military Aid to Russia Grow. In a Feb. 24 interview, CIA Director Bill Burns confirmed that China is considering sending lethal military aid to Russia to aid in its war against Ukraine. Burns clarified that China has not yet moved forward on any plans to provide aid. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan publicly warned that it would not be in China’s best interest to arm Russia, and that such a move will result in swift and severe consequences for China. The administration will remain “vigilant” in monitoring developments in this space.
China Tensions to Be Discussed at G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting. The G-20 Foreign Ministers will meet in Delhi, India, March 1–2, and we understand China will feature prominently in off-the-record conversations. The Government of India has explicitly stated it does not want Ukraine to dominate the event, but Ukraine will be on the agenda. Both Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang are expected to attend; we are not expecting the G-20 Foreign Ministers meeting to result in a final communique, as it is unlikely that the foreign ministers can agree on common language on how to address the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The United States, with India, will host a Quad meeting on the margins of the G-20, where Quad members will certainly discuss issues focused on regional and economic security. The world will be watching the dynamics at these Delhi meetings, given recent China activity and the one-year mark of the war in Ukraine.
Highlight Reel: Feb. 13–27
House of Representatives
Bipartisan Congressional Delegation Travels to Taiwan. On Feb. 20, a bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers traveled to Taiwan for a five-day trip that included meetings with President Tsai Ing-wen and President of the Legislative Yuan You Si-kun, as well as other government and private sector leaders in the country. The delegation—which included Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Tony Gonzales (R-TX), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) and Johnathan Jackson (D-IL)—met with President Ing-wen on Feb. 21, with the president noting that Taiwan would “cooperate even more actively with the U.S. and other democratic partners to confront ... authoritarian expansionism,” among other areas of cooperation. The delegation also met with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) founder Morris Chang on Feb. 20, with Rep. Khanna noting the trip was aimed in part at deepening understanding of Taiwan’s critical role in the global semiconductor industry. However, the trip ostensibly served as an expression of U.S. support for Taiwan as it has faced increased harassment from China, and occurred as diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China have intensified following the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace earlier in February. Rep. Khanna said that the visit was “in no way provocative of China,” in a statement on the delegation’s travel to Taiwan, adding that it was “consistent with the president’s foreign policy that recognizes the importance of the relationship ...while still seeking, ultimately, peace in the region.”
Rep. Gallagher Requests Briefing on Chinese Law Enforcement Stations in the U.S. On Feb. 24, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who serves as chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, authored a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting a briefing on China’s law enforcement operations in the United States. Noting that over 100 Chinese police stations were found by a human rights organization to have been operating illegally within U.S. borders as of late 2022, Rep. Gallagher asked for a briefing of the China Committee covering the role of the police stations in bolstering the Chinese government’s intelligence gathering operations and the FBI’s plan to respond to the construction of such stations, among other issues. While China has denied operating police stations on U.S. soil, instead claiming the stations are occupied by volunteers unaffiliated with the CCP’s political agenda, Director Wray said the FBI was aware of the stations’ existence in hearing testimony given in November 2022, though he did not elaborate on the FBI’s long-term investigation strategy. The existence of the stations and their potential impacts on U.S.-China relations will likely be raised during the committee’s first scheduled hearing on Feb. 28, which is titled “The Chinese Communist Party’s Threat to America.”
Department of State
Secretary Blinken Meets with China Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi. On Feb. 18, Secretary Blinken met with Wang Yi, director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the highest level of contact between U.S. and Chinese officials since the discovery of a Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace earlier in February. Secretary Blinken directly addressed the issue of the Chinese balloon during the meeting, with State Department Spokesperson Ned Price noting he “made clear the United States will not stand for any violation of [U.S.] sovereignty, and that the PRC’s high altitude surveillance balloon program ... has been exposed to the world.” Secretary Blinken also discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, warning of “implications and consequences” if China were to provide material support to Russia or assistance with systemic sanctions evasion, and the importance of maintaining stability across the Taiwan Strait, noting that there had been no change to the longstanding U.S. One China policy, among other issues. The meeting itself was the deliverable, as it did not move the needle with regard to the bilateral relationship.
Department of Commerce
Department of Commerce Adds Five Chinese Companies to Entity List for Russia Sanctions Evasion. On Feb. 24, the Department of Commerce added 86 entities to the Entity List for their support of Russia’s defense-industrial sector and war effort, including five Chinese firms considered to be Russian or Belarusian “military end users” supporting Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. The Chinese companies listed were AOOK Technology Ltd., Beijing Ti-Tech Science and Technology Development Co., Beijing HEAD Aerospace Technology Co., and Spacety Co. Ltd. The decision to list the Chinese entities was part of a broader sanctions package implemented on Feb. 24, the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine war, and was drafted in concert with other G7 and EU U.S. allied governments, according to the BIS announcement. The sanctions on Chinese entities follow U.S. officials, including Secretary Blinken, raising the collection of intelligence to European officials during the Munich Security Conference indicating that China may begin to ramp up support for Russia’s military.
Department of Energy
DOE Backs COVID-19 Lab-Leak Theory. In a newly leaked report, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has concluded, with “low-confidence,” that the COVID-19 pandemic was caused by an accidental leak from a Chinese laboratory. The DOE now joins the FBI as the only other federal agency to conclude that the virus was spread from a laboratory. Other agencies remain undecided or believe the virus resulted from natured transmission. The Chinese government was quick to dismiss the report and accused the United States of smearing China and politicizing efforts to trace the virus’ origins.
Department of Defense
DOD Announces Plans to Expand Presence in Taiwan. On Feb. 23, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that the United States plans to deploy between 100–200 additional troops to Taiwan in 2023, up from approximately 30 troops last year. The planned increase would be the largest deployment of forces in decades in Taiwan. We understand the troops will primarily focus on training, helping to provide Taiwan with the capabilities it needs to defend itself without provoking Beijing, bolstering training already provided to Taiwan by the Michigan National Guard. At the same time, the Taiwanese government confirmed it will be sending troops to the United States for additional training later this year.
Top Gun Moment in South China Seas. On Feb. 24, a U.S. Navy plan flying over international waters had an “encounter” with a Chinese fighter jet when the J-11 fighter appeared 500 feet off its left wing. As both the United States and China are increasing their air campaigns over the South China Seas, these encounters are becoming more frequent.
DOD Senior Official Draws Chinese Ire for Alleged Visit to Taiwan. Michael Chase, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, allegedly visited Taiwan last week, earning sharp criticism from the Chinese government. The Chinese government also reaffirmed its sanctions on Lockheed Martin and a unit of Raytheon for supplying military equipment to Taiwan.
On the Calendar: Feb. 27 - March 3
House Science, Space and Technology Committee
United States China and the Fight for Global Leadership: Building a U.S. National Science and Technology Strategy
10:00 a.m., Live Stream
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Combatting the Generational Challenge of CCP Aggression
10:00 a.m., Live Stream
House Armed Services Committee
Oversight of U.S. Military Support to Ukraine
10:00 a.m., Live Stream
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
2:00 p.m., Live Stream
House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party
The Chinese Communist Party’s Threat to America
7:00 p.m., Live Stream TBD
Senate Armed Services Committee
Hearing to Examine the Conflict in Ukraine
9:30 a.m., Live Stream