“The thing that the CCP fears most is bipartisan support against China.”

LaHood Says Republicans & Democrats Must Speak with One Voice When It Comes to Confronting the Chinese Communist Threat

WASHINGTON, DC – In remarks yesterday before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (IL-16) discussed his role as a member of the newly-created House Select Committee on China and the importance of Republicans and Democrats speaking with one voice when it comes to confronting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) threat.

“I give Speaker McCarthy a lot of credit for creating this the first week that we had our new majority,” the Illinois lawmaker stated. “If you look at the vote on the House floor to create the Select Committee on China, over 100 Democrats supported it, which is a positive thing. And if you look at who serves on the Select Committee, I don’t think we could ask for better members.  They are substantive, very smart, conscientious, and they bring a lot to the table, both on our side and the Democrat side.

“Chairman Gallagher does an excellent job leading the committee. He’s articulate. He knows the subject matter very well. I think he’s been very inclusive, taking in all views on both sides of the aisle. The same with the Ranking Member, Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08). Raja and I are obviously both from the same state.  We know each other well. And I think he was an excellent pick by Leader Jeffries.  So the framework has been set.  I would say the thing that the CCP fears most is bipartisan support against China. And I think we have a real opportunity on the Select Committee to be engaged on a number of these issues.”

LaHood was elected to the House in 2015 after serving four years in the Illinois State Senate and more than nine years as a State and Federal Prosecutor.  In addition to his role on the newly-created Select Committee, he serves on the House Intelligence Committee and is Co-Chair of the U.S.-China Working Group, along with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02).  He also serves on the Ways & Means Committee, and noted that Chairman Gallagher has asked him to focus at least part of his efforts as a member of the Select Committee on studying the economic relationship that the United States has – and has not – developed with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region and what can be accomplished through U.S. leadership in trade.

“When I first got elected to Congress,” he recounted, “I was a supporter in general of the framework for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I didn’t think it was perfect. There were many things that I would change.  But creating a framework in the Indo-Pacific region to isolate China — to write the rules of the road when it comes to trade and economics —  was very important to do. In the current geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region, our allies are really craving our leadership there. Anytime you talk to folks from Japan or South Korea, or Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, or Vietnam, they’re looking to the U.S. for leadership there. So what does that mean?  I’m not under the illusion that we’re going to create another TPP.  But we have to think about what we’re going to do from an economic standpoint to build relationships.”

Making reference to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity that the Biden Administration has put forth to begin building those relationships, LaHood was blunt.  “I don’t think it addresses market access,” he said of the IPEF.  “I don’t think there are any enforcement mechanisms. It has really no teeth. It’s really just a framework. And again, talking to our like-minded allies in the region, I think they’re very frustrated with that.”

LaHood also touched on how the relationship between the U.S. and China has changed in recent years, from one that is interested in more engagement to one that has become inherently more adversarial.  “A lot of it goes back to what’s happened in Ukraine,” he noted.  “Xi Jinping just spent two days in a lovefest in Moscow with Putin talking about continuing to work together and their unbreakable bond. I think many have been very perplexed and disappointed with China and the role they’ve taken in supporting Putin. They have not taken the next step [by providing] lethal aid.  But obviously, we’re watching closely to see what happens.”

According to LaHood, the adversarial nature of the U.S.-China relationship has also been fueled by the “wolf warrior” approach to diplomacy that former Ambassador – and current Foreign Minister — Wang Yi and other Chinese officials have exhibited in recent years.

“The first meeting he had on Capitol Hill was with Congressman Larsen and me,” LaHood said, recalling the meeting he and his Co-Chair of the U.S. China Working Group had with then-Ambassador Yi.  “He lectured us on how if Abraham Lincoln was alive today, he would think China’s form of government was much more democratic than the United States. Congressman Larson and I just sat there perplexed.”

“What I think is ironic — going back to Ukraine for a second — is if you look at what China has been focused on for the last 20 years, sovereignty has been such a big part of it — sovereignty for Tibet, sovereignty for Xinjiang, sovereignty for Hong Kong, sovereignty for Taiwan. But in Ukraine, you have an independent sovereign country that was invaded illegally and unprovoked. And by the way, China had a lot of economic relationships with Ukraine at the time. And yet when the invasion happens, they side with Putin. It’s very much a double-standard.”

LaHood concluded by returning to America’s economic relationship with China, and why navigating the complexities of this relationship will not only be one of the main challenges of the Select Committee, but an area where both Republicans and Democrats will have to speak with one voice and find common ground.

“A lot of my colleagues want to go back to a Cold War mentality with China,” he observed.  “They say we need to decouple. But the reality is the economic relationship with China is much different than it was during the Cold War.  We didn’t have an economic relationship with Russia like we do with China today.”

“How do you intertwine that? I think finding that balance will be one of the most difficult things for us to do … If we put proposals in place, I think we can help to isolate China economically.  But it’s really going to take a bipartisan effort moving forward.”

To view the remarks of Rep. LaHood at yesterday’s breakfast discussion, please click the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.