View From the House: Rep. Mike Gallagher and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on US-China Cooperation, Competition, and Communication
By Norris Tangen
Navigating the turbulent waters of the current US-China relationship requires a multifaceted approach. At the 13th Annual China Business Conference in May, Reps. Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi shared their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities presented by the evolving relationship. From the need to acknowledge risks and build resilience in critical sectors to fostering dialogue and promoting bipartisan collaboration, the AmCham China Quarterly breaks down the key points in their conversation, which was facilitated by former AmCham China Chairman Jim McGregor.
Photo courtesy of US Chamber of Commerce
The 13th Annual China Business Conference, co-hosted by AmCham China and the US Chamber of Commerce, provided a platform for industry leaders and policymakers to discuss the complexities of the US-China competition. The panel discussion, titled “Views from the House: Is the US Rising to the Competition or Still in the Starting Blocks?”, featured Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the Ranking Member of the Committee. The two shared their perspectives on the military, economic, and ideological dimensions of US-China competition. Their insights shed light on the challenges and opportunities of managing the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
Three Lines of Competition
Rep. Gallagher highlighted what he dubbed the “three key lines of competition with China”: military, economic, and ideological/human rights. He emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach, stating that “we have to view China’s rise through these three lenses simultaneously.” Rep. Gallagher acknowledged the risks associated with economic decoupling and underlined the importance of recognizing risks while not contributing to one’s own demise. He urged caution when it comes to technology transfer, research security, and funding advanced technologies, noting that minimizing risk to zero is not feasible but acknowledging risk is crucial.
Rep. Krishnamoorthi discussed the economic interdependence between the US and China and similarly cautioned against complete decoupling. He advocated for de-risking certain supply chains, including pharmaceuticals and semiconductors, and fostering high-level dialogue to manage challenges effectively. Rep. Krishnamoorthi argued that increased calls for reshoring present an opportunity for the US to enhance its own capabilities and rise to the challenges presented, saying, “This is also an opportunity for us to up our game as Americans. We must increase our American economic competitiveness.” He also stressed the need for guardrails to mitigate risks in supply chains while maintaining economic ties.
Building Resilience in Critical Sectors
Both panelists acknowledged the need to strengthen US resilience in critical sectors. Gallagher emphasized the importance of building resilience in pharmaceuticals, microelectronics, and critical minerals. He highlighted the necessity of dedicating additional resources to ensure self-reliance and reduce vulnerabilities in these areas. Rep. Gallagher also shared his skepticism regarding the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act of 2022 (CHIPS Act), which he voted against. The CHIPS Act, signed into law in August 2022, outlines plans to invest $280 billion to bolster US semiconductor capacity, catalyze R&D, and create regional high-tech hubs and a bigger, more inclusive STEM workforce. Rep. Gallagher noted that he voted against the bill and added, “I have some skepticism that it’s going to work the way it’s intended. But perhaps the most important thing is to observe and learn the right lessons. One thing we’re hearing from even the most ardent proponents of the CHIPS Act is that there is a need for more aggressive deregulation in key areas if we want to have chip fabs built in the United States within the next five years.”
Rep. Krishnamoorthi mirrored Rep. Gallagher’s sentiments regarding the bolstering of domestic manufacturing capabilities. He also cited the pharmaceutical industry as a key example of domestic manufacturing capability required to avoid the risk of coercion during a health crisis. Recognizing the significance of secure supply chains, Rep. Krishnamoorthi stressed the need for strategic planning, risk mitigation, and diversification to safeguard critical sectors from disruption.
Bipartisan Collaboration and Legislative Action
Discussing the possibility of bipartisan cooperation on these challenging issues, Rep. Gallagher expressed optimism about finding areas of agreement with Democrats. He stated, “Even on the thorny issues here – pharmaceuticals, critical minerals, energy – I think we can find areas of agreement. Even if it’s not a 100% solution, we’re meaningfully advancing the ball down the field in this Congress. If nothing else, we can come up with a framework for selective decoupling or de-risking that starts to get the parties to talk to each other and identify what is that 70% center of gravity that everyone in Congress agrees upon, and 70% of the world agrees on. Maybe that sounds naive, but I’m cautiously optimistic we can get there.”
Rep. Gallagher also emphasized the role of legislative action in addressing US-China competition. He stressed the necessity of bipartisan collaboration and emphasized that the goal is to see what can be accomplished in the near term. He conceded the limitations of think-tank reports in shaping policy outcomes and said there must be efforts placed on translating these ideas into actionable blueprints for legislative action. He highlighted the Committee’s commitment to conducting hearings with major business leaders and asking genuine questions rather than engaging in “partisan showmanship.”
Rep. Krishnamoorthi echoed the importance of constructive engagement and inclusive dialogue. He shared an anecdote from the Committee’s first meeting, where Speaker McCarthy emphasized the need for bipartisanship in dealing with critical issues. “Speaker McCarthy asked all of us to come to his conference room to meet. Not only was he there, but the Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries was sitting right next to him, and I am paraphrasing here but, he said ‘If you want to engage in partisanship, we’ve got committees for that. But if you want to get something done, this is the committee.’ Rep. Krishnamoorthi said. “We do our best to insulate ourselves from the politics because this issue is too important to get caught up in the rancor and the partisanship that normally attends congressional business,” he said.
In response to concerns about biased views on the US-China relationship, Rep. Gallagher assured that the Committee aims to incorporate diverse perspectives. He emphasized the importance of understanding different viewpoints and engaging in constructive conversations to bridge the gap. Rep. Gallagher stressed that effective communication and collaboration are essential in developing comprehensive strategies that address the complex challenges posed by China’s rise.
Navigating Engagement with China
In discussing communication with China, Rep. Krishnamoorthi expressed deep concern about the breakdown of dialogue between the highest levels of governments. He stated, “Right now we’re not talking to China. We’re not even having high-level dialogue at this point between the principals. And that is not a good place to be.” He emphasized the importance of fostering high-level dialogue to effectively manage challenges and find common ground.
When asked about the possibility of visiting China, Gallagher approached the topic with caution. He acknowledged the value of dialogue but raised concerns about the productivity of certain meetings, given the complex and dynamic nature of the US-China relationship. While Gallagher did not dismiss the possibility of engagement, he underscored the importance of ensuring that discussions are productive and meaningful.
Bridging the Divide
During the panel discussion’s Q&A session, Bill Zarit, AmCham Board Member and member of the DC Doorknock delegation, voiced concerns about the lack of moderate or objective views on the US-China relationship. In response, Rep. Gallagher pointed to what he called the Committee’s extensive efforts to feature expertise from a wide range of stakeholders, regardless of party affiliation. He stressed that they understood the importance of including diverse perspectives and ensuring a balanced exchange of ideas. Rep. Krishnamoorthi reiterated the same message, stating that the Committee is open to engaging in dialogue with anyone willing to contribute.
Also, during the Q&A session, in response to Gallagher expressing his hesitation to visit mainland China, Michael Hart, President of AmCham China, took the opportunity to address both representatives directly. Hart extended an invitation on behalf of AmCham China, inviting them to visit China to engage with member company representatives and experience firsthand the business environment in the country. Additionally, he encouraged them to visit Chinese universities to gain insight into the perceptions and perspectives of the United States held by Chinese students and scholars. This invitation from Hart underscores AmCham China’s vision of enhancing the business environment in China and facilitating constructive and sustainable economic relations between the two countries.