US senators on Thursday unveiled broad legislation on China that would step up pressure over Beijing’s alleged theft of intellectual property and solidify US ties with Taiwan.
In a rare bipartisan initiative in the polarized Congress, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee together presented the Strategic Competition Act which aims to govern the fraught US relationship with Beijing.
“The United States government must be clear-eyed and sober about Beijing’s intentions and actions, and calibrate our policy and strategy accordingly,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the Democrat who leads the committee.
The act describes sanctions as “a powerful tool” for the United States and voices concern that the executive branch “has not fully implemented” measures already approved by Congress.
If passed, the act would require the secretary of state to issue an annual list of all Chinese state-owned companies that have benefitted from intellectual property theft that hurt any US company or sector.
It would also seek assessments on rape, forced abortion and other gender-based violence against Uyghurs in addition to previously required reporting on incarceration and other mistreatment of the mostly Muslim people.
Rights experts say that more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim people have been rounded up in the western region of Xinjiang in a campaign the United States describes as genocide.
Beijing argues that it is providing vocational training to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism. Beijing also denies US allegations of rampant theft of intellectual property.
The act would reaffirm strong US support of Taiwan, which has historically enjoyed wide bipartisan backing in Congress.
The legislation would require the United States to use “the same nomenclature and protocol” in dealing with Taiwan as with any foreign government, although it would maintain that Washington recognizes only Beijing.
The United States must retain “credibility as a defender of the democratic values and free-market principles embodied by Taiwan’s people and government,” the act said.
Taiwan, a self-government democracy, is considered by Beijing a territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
US politicians across party lines have increasingly pushed a tough line on China, one of the few areas on which President Joe Biden has voiced agreement with his predecessor Donald Trump.