Top Republican blocks Biden’s China House
The creation of the unit – essentially a departmental reorganization – had so far been largely uncontroversial. No other lawmakers objected to the plans, a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions.
« It’s important that any organizational changes actually improve U.S. efforts to compete with China, » Suzanne Wrasse, spokeswoman for the Risch-led minority wing of the Senate committee, said in a statement. “As currently presented to the committee, China House’s proposal appears to be a bureaucratic power grab, and Senator Risch will not relent in his efforts to ensure that the proper oversight exists and that China House serves its purposes. Until that happens, the House of China will not move forward.
Risch’s spokesman did not elaborate on exactly what the State Department’s proposal he believes constitutes a power grab or would undermine oversight.
The developments underscore how, despite the bipartisan consensus in Washington that China’s communist government poses a long-term threat to US global dominance, cross-party agreement on exactly how to respond can sometimes be difficult to achieve.
« Our partners in Congress have always made it clear that they want to do everything possible to ensure the department is equipped to meet this challenge, » State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “To that end, we need to be able to move forward as quickly as possible with China House to integrate and coordinate our department-wide approach. Given the stakes, we cannot afford any delay.
State Department officials repeatedly informed Risch’s team of China House, people familiar with the matter said. The State Department could, technically, ignore such objections from Capitol Hill and go ahead with its plans. But that breaks with Biden administration preferences and risks political backlash, so the department is unlikely to move forward without Risch’s blessing.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken described China House as « an integrated, department-wide team that will coordinate and implement our policy across issues and regions, working with Congress as necessary. »
The initiative appears similar to the CIA’s China Mission Center. But it was questioned whether elements of China House would be redundant given that other State Department units already deal with China.
Public information on China House’s exact size and scope has been sparse, and it could be several months before the team is fully operational, even if Risch were to sign soon.
Risch presented himself as a hawk on China issues. He has delivered speeches and introduced several bills in recent years that have, among other things, offered more support for Taiwan as the island hopes to fend off a future Chinese invasion.
His blocking on China House drew criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
Andrei Vasilescu, spokesman for the majority wing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Rep. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.), said that while Senate Republicans are « talking tough » on the Chinese government, « they are undermining efforts to build the diplomatic resources needed to meet the China challenge. »
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled its national security strategy, which as expected made China the United States’ main long-term geopolitical competitor.