UCS Expert: US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Declares Cold War on China

21-1 Committee Vote Sends Ill-conceived Anti-China Bill to the Full Senate

Published Apr 22, 2021

The “Strategic Competition Act of 2021” mandates a “whole of government” effort to confront China everywhere, all the time, until it is defeated. If it becomes law, the next generation of people in the United States will be forced to set aside domestic priorities to fight a mirage, according to Dr. Gregory Kulacki, the China project manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists who posted a blog on the misguided legislation titled “The US Declares Cold War on China.”

“The Chinese government abuses the human rights of its citizens and does not foreswear the use of force to resolve territorial disputes with its neighbors,” according to Dr. Kulacki. “But China is not a strategic competitor of the United States. And the bill that will go to the Senate floor dangerously treats it as such.”

A close look at the data on China’s actual economic and military situation suggests the Senate, and the Biden administration, are overestimating Chinese strengths and misinterpreting Chinese intentions.

Economic data from the World Bank show China ranks 72nd among all nations in per capita gross domestic product (GDP). Premier Li Keqiang recently told China’s National People’s Congress that 600 million Chinese earn less than 140 dollars per month. “This is where China stands after four decades of rapid economic growth,” said Dr. Kulacki. “China’s leaders are not seeking to take on the United States. They are barely holding on at home.”

Data on Chinese military spending from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that China has held military spending to a constant and comparatively low two percent of GDP since 1988.

“China has closed the military gap with the U.S. military when operating near its own borders,” said Dr. Kulacki. “But that is a product of economic growth and geography, not a change in Chinese intentions.

“China’s leaders seek to govern China and provide for its 1.4 billion people as they see fit,” said Dr. Kulacki. “That presents some genuine problems for the United States and the rest of the world. But the only way to solve them is through dialogue and diplomacy, which the Senate bill will make impossible.”