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Efforts to counter China’s growing influence draw broad support in Congress

The Biden administration announced it's taking a series of steps to ensure the U.S. had secure access to key products, many of which are manufactured overseas, as the U.S. Senate is poised to pass sweeping bipartisan legislation intended to address competition with Chinese technology. Nick Schifrin joins Stephanie Sy to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This evening, the U.S. Senate, on a rare bipartisan basis, is passing a major piece of legislation designed to counter China and its global influence.

    The roughly $200 billion measure is also one of the largest pieces of industrial legislation ever to make its way through Congress, though it still needs to be reconciled with a House version.

    Stephanie Sy has more.

  • Stephaine Sy:

    Judy, the Senate bill invests billions in innovation and critical technologies, many of which the Chinese government has made a top priority for years.

    And, earlier, the Biden administration announced it was taking steps to ensure the U.S. has its own supply of essential products and components, many of which are today manufactured in China. All of this is aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with the world's second largest economy.

    Nick Schifrin joins me with more now.

    Nick, what steps did the White House take, and how do they fit in with the bill the Senate is voting on?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This is the White House and Congress making a statement that, in order to take on China, the U.S. must focus on itself.

    So, first, the White House critical supply chain assessment identifies four main areas of focus. They start with semiconductors, then batteries, as well as critical minerals. Think about rare earths that end up in cell phones and pharmaceuticals as well.

    These are many of Beijing's priorities. The administration says that it's trying to address the vulnerabilities in supply chains, many of which COVID exposed, and also strengthen U.S. resilience.

    And then, in the Senate, as you said, Stephanie, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, one of the largest industrial bills in U.S. history. It invests tens of billions of dollars in what are called key technology-focused areas, basically reenergizing high-tech research and development.

    It also boosts semiconductor manufacturing. And it makes some diplomatic statements, a ban on U.S. diplomats going to the Beijing 2022 Olympics, and also another call for a COVID origins investigations.

    The sum of the parts today, Stephanie, once again an attempt to make the U.S. stronger in order to take China on.

  • Stephaine Sy:

    And that bill is expected to pass the Senate, Nick, tonight, with bipartisan approach.

    But what do critics say about this approach to China?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, so Beijing is obviously the top critic, who says that this is evidence the U.S. is trying to contain China.

    On the Hill, senior Republicans say that the bill was rushed through and, therefore, isn't as strong as it should be, because it contains internal contradictions. But, in the House, I talked to progressive Democrats who say the bill goes too far, is too anti-China, and members to have the House Foreign Affairs Committee are already changing language on Taiwan and Beijing.

    We have talked to conservative and libertarian groups, who say that the Senate shouldn't be in the business of choosing what research scientists do, and also call the bill protectionist.

    But in this polarized moment, Stephanie, this is a bipartisan statement that reflects the administration's argument that the U.S. can't only go on defense against China, can't only call out and punish Chinese behavior. It also needs to go on offense, and it needs to stay competitive in its technology. In order to take on China, it really needs to get its own house in order.

  • Stephaine Sy:

    And, obviously, some agreement that the federal government should subsidize some of those high technology companies, which is a shift.

    Nick Schifrin, thank you.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Thank you.

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