As the world turns its eyes to the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to cheat the global rules-based system and commits human rights atrocities with the end goal of passing the United States as the world’s leading superpower. This is the same leadership that strips Hong Kong of their rightful freedoms, denies the sovereignty of Taiwan, oversees forced labor and torture, and steals our intellectual property. It’s past time that we hold the CCP accountable.
When it comes to global trade, the CCP has routinely violated international standards related to intellectual property rights, subsidization, and overcapacity. State-owned enterprises have grown their presence in commercial sectors across the globe with the full backing of the Chinese government. Huawei is a classic example of a state-owned enterprise that is surrounded by accusations of corruption and theft of intellectual property.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) must play a serious role in holding the CCP accountable. It is time for the WTO to update its rules related to developing country status. China is the world’s second-largest economy, yet it gets the same treatment as other countries that are considered “emerging and developing” by the World Economic Outlook, including Cambodia, Gambia, Guinea, and Malaysia. In 2019, South Korea announced it would give up its special “developing countries” status and Brazil did the same, yet China insists on self-declaring as a developing country. I offered an amendment to the America COMPETES Act, which passed with bipartisan support, that would push to strip China of its “developing nation” status within the Paris Agreement, another internationally recognized treaty. The CCP must follow the precedent set by other countries that have grown in the 21st Century. If the CCP has truly achieved a “complete victory” over extreme poverty, then ending its developing country status should be an obvious — and fair — next step.
The CCP provides ample evidence of its dishonesty. China has misreported its carbon emissions and continues to open new coal plants, yet is a welcome partner in discussions about reducing greenhouse emissions.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a CCP foreign assistance program lacking transparency that provides hundreds of billions in funding to address infrastructure needs to poor countries. This program holds countries hostage to the CCP, strapping developing countries with unsustainable debt while being forced to transfer infrastructure control to the CCP, as evidenced best by the Chinese-built port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
The U.S. must work with other countries to hold China accountable. After the U.S. walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), Japan demonstrated global leadership as the other eleven TPP countries moved forward with what is now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). If the United States could improve the agreement to address bipartisan concerns and ensure it serves our interests, it could be an economic driver to the United States and California, my home state. Through reduced tariffs and improved trade rules that reflect our values, it would improve the market access that our exporters enjoy. But our absence in the CPTPP has created a major void, and China sees an opportunity to strengthen its power and abuse in the region. In the short term, the U.S. must improve trade agreements with Japan and other allies in the region to continue to find ways to enhance our trade relationships, including exploring a potential a free trade agreement with Taiwan.
It’s time for the U.S. to stand up to the CCP. Earlier this year, Australia (which is a CPTPP member) and China had a trade dispute after tensions flared up over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. China retaliated with bans on Australian beef and new tariffs on a range of key Australian exports. Australia was able to find other markets for most of its goods. This showed that although not easy, countries can find new avenues for exports when China abuses its market power.
If the CCP has the economic resources to invest in nuclear silos, rovers on Mars, and the world’s largest navy, then it’s time for China to abide by the international norms and rules that have brought it to its current economic position. If the CCP fails to do so, then the United States and our democratic partners must find alternatives to Chinese markets and impose true costs for China’s unfair economic practices. We can no longer allow the CCP to walk all over us and our allies.
Michelle Steel represents the 48th District of California and is a member of the Congressional Executive Commission on China.