Taiwanese soldiers on a armored vehicle in Taiplei during the National Day Celebration, following Chinese President Xi Jinpings vow to unify Taiwan by peaceful means. Photo: AFP / Ceng Shou Yi / NurPhoto

US-China political tensions are on a new edge after two US House committees proposed more than a dozen bills that call for supporting Taiwan and sanctioning China.

Among the bills:

  • The Protect Taiwan Act calls for the Federal Reserve, the secretary of the treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude representatives from the People’s Republic of China from proceedings of various international financial groups and organizations, including the G20, in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.
  • The Taiwan Conflict Deterrence Act of 2023 calls on the US government to publish the assets of top Chinese leaders and cut them and their family members off from financial services if Beijing acts against Taiwan.

The Chinese foreign ministry has so far not commented on the bills individually but complained that US lawmakers held a hearing specifically to smear China. 

Chinese columnists focused more on US Congress calls to kick China out of the G20 and expose Chinese officials’ US-based assets while Taiwanese media played up Taiwan’s potential IMF membership.

“The Protect Taiwan Act aims not at protecting Taiwan but at sanctioning mainland China,” Liu Yong, a Hubei-based military columnist, wrote in an article on March 2. “The US harbors a fanciful illusion that it has the power to kick China out of the G20 – in which the US lacks the absolute control that it does have in G7.”

Liu says that, since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict broke out last year, the US has tried to remove Russia from the G20 but failed to do so. He says US allies will not agree with the idea of removing the world’s second-largest economy from the G20, Liu wrote.

He says that to avoid seeing its US-based assets frozen by US authorities, China must increase the pace of de-dollarization now. Once dollar dominance collapses, he predicts, US hegemony will also end.

Photo: World Financial Review

A Liaoning-based writer surnamed Ouyang writes that most of the new US bills are aimed at maintaining dollar dominance. He says the renminbi is increasingly welcomed by foreign countries, including Iraq, which has recently announced that it will settle trade in the Chinese currency.

Taiwanese Central Bank governor Yang Chin-long says it would be good for Taiwan to join the IMF but it will require a big diplomatic push from Taipei as the island must first become a member of the United Nations. 

Originally, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to visit Beijing in early February but the trip was canceled after a Chinese “spy balloon” appeared over US airspace. US President Joe Biden ordered the shoot-down of the balloon on February 4. The US also unveiled new curbs against more Chinese companies. 

On February 28 evening, the newly-formed Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the US and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its first hearing, which emphasized recent national security issues.

“The threat against Taiwan grows every day,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in a hearing-opening speech. “Yet, arms sales to Taiwan – those that the ranking member and I signed off on nearly four years ago – have yet to be delivered.”

“We must strengthen Taiwan’s defenses through weapons and training,” he said. “We will not tolerate any attempts to delay notifications to Congress of arms sales to Taiwan.”

McCaul expressed concern that the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) continues to allow critical US technology to be sold to China, including through licenses reportedly worth US$60 billion to telecom giant Huawei Technologies and $40 billion to chip maker SMIC.

The US State Department has approved the sale of $619 million in new weapons, including missiles for F-16 fighter jets, to Taiwan, the Pentagon told Congress on March 1.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on March 2 that China strongly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan and will take decisive measures to uphold its sovereignty and protect its interests.

“Relevant US institutions and individuals should abandon their ideological bias and zero-sum Cold War mentality, develop an objective and rational perception of China and US-China relations [and] stop framing China as a threat based on disinformation,” Mao commented on the House hearing on March 1. 

She said US politicians should stop disparaging the CCP and trying to score political points at the expense of US-China relations. 

On February 28, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs spent three hours discussing 11 bills that call for supporting Taiwan and curbing China and approved eight of them.

The next day, the committee passed the remaining three bills – the Upholding Sovereignty of Airspace Act, the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act and the Countering the PRC Malign Influence Fund Authorization Act.

If passed in both the full House and the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden, the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act will give the president the power to ban the use of China’s TikTok app on mobile phones in the US.

The TikTok app is now being removed from government work devices in the US and Canada. TikTok logo image: Handout

A different committee – the US House Financial Services Committee – said on Tuesday it approved eight bipartisan bills that are aimed at combating the “generational threat posed by the CCP’s economic aggression.”

The China Financial Threat Mitigation Act of 2023, meanwhile, will require the Treasury Secretary to report on global economic risks emanating from the Chinese financial sector.

The Chinese Currency Accountability Act of 2023 will require the Treasury Secretary to oppose an increase in the weight of China’s renminbi in the basket of currencies determining the value of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights.

It is aimed at preventing the CCP from co-opting critical international institutions, said the committee.

Read: Xi’s Communist Party wants even more centralized control

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3