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China’s ‘Malign Influence’ Growing, But Not Being Countered, Texas Lawmaker Warns

China's Belt and Road Initiative Is Far From Benign, House Panel Is Told.

Credit: Tart, via Wikimedia Commons

By Samantha Aschieris, The Daily Signal | June 14, 2023

“China’s malign influence is growing exponentially, and its encroachment into the Western Hemisphere poses a clear and present danger,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at a hearing Wednesday.

“Now is the time to act and address this with the seriousness it deserves,” McCaul, R-Texas, said at the hearing, “Assessing U.S. Efforts to Counter China’s Coercive Belt and Road Diplomacy.”

“We need a whole-of-government approach, including a concerted effort among the State Department, the Commerce Department, the Development Finance Corporation to successfully counter [the Chinese Communist Party’s] Belt and Road [Initiative],” the Texas lawmaker said.

The Belt and Road Initiative, which Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled nearly 10 years ago in 2013, is aimed at “[spending] or [investing] over $1 trillion on new infrastructure and connectivity investments across the Indo-Pacific and Eurasian supercontinent,” according to a report from The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

“Some of these projects include 85% of Hungary’s largest-ever infrastructure project. A $1.9 billion railway link to Serbia will be financed with a loan from China’s export-import bank,” McCaul added. “Huawei has constructed up to 70% of Africa’s information technology 4G infrastructure, including telecom, national and government networks, which have been used for surveillance of opposition leaders.”

“And while China has focused on consolidating power, we have prioritized a $100 billion climate fund to help developing nations transition to clean energy and strengthen their climate resiliency, offering Palestinians $100,000 to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in arts and sports, and a State Department grant of over $20,000 for drag shows in Ecuador,” the Texan said.

McCaul then asked, “How are we supposed to lead, when this administration prioritizes green projects and social issues, rather than applying our resources to counter the malign influence of the CCP?”

Witnesses at the hearing included Geoffrey Pyatt, assistant secretary of state in the department’s Bureau of Energy Resources; Arun Venkataraman, assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service; and Andrew Herscowitz, chief development officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corp.

“Notwithstanding China’s efforts to portray [Belt and Road Initiative] as a solution to advance infrastructure development and economic growth, our trading partners increasingly share our view that BRI poses more risk than opportunity,” Venkataraman said. “First, China’s BRI can threaten our trading partners’ economic development. … “

“Second, China’s BRI threatens U.S. economic and national security interests,” Venkataraman added. ” … Third, China’s BRI hinders U.S. companies from competing in markets oversees.”

Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, weighed in on the committee’s hearing and on why the Belt and Road Initiative is bad for the U.S.

“It’s good that they’re holding this hearing. The United States needs to take the Belt and Road Initiative more seriously than it usually does, because contrary to the perceptions of many, Beijing remains just as dedicated to this endeavor as ever,” Cunningham told The Daily Signal in a written statement.

“It’s hosting its third Belt and Road Forum this year—which the Chinese government is presenting as one of its most important diplomatic events of the year—and Americans should watch carefully who attends, what is said, and what kinds of adjustments Chinese leaders announce regarding the initiative,” Cunningham said, adding:

The [Belt and Road Initiative] is not mere ‘debt-trap diplomacy,’ as some have claimed. If that were the case, if would be easy to discredit it, but it’s more complicated than that. China isn’t seeking to entrap countries in debt. it’s seeking to buy their favor by providing infrastructure investment that no one else is stepping up to provide. And while the initiative may seem overly ambitious on paper, Beijing doesn’t need to completely redraw global trade routes before considering it a success.


Video: Full Committee Hearing on Assessing U.S. Efforts to Counter China’s Coercive Belt and Road Diplomacy

Samantha Aschieris is a senior news producer for The Daily Signal.

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