What danger does China actually pose to America? How closely are China and Russia working together? Is the Biden administration doing enough to prepare for foreign policy threats?
America and China are in a “global competition for economic and military dominance,” says Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
If America does not take strategic action now, our children will be the ones bearing the burden of that tension between China and America, the Texas lawmaker says.
McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how Russia and China view America right now, and how the U.S. can take steps to prepare for international threats.
We also cover these stories:
- President Joe Biden outlines additional steps the U.S. could take as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.
- NATO calls on China to stop supporting Russian “war efforts” in Ukraine and instead use its “significant influence” to push for peace.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs legislation forcing insurance companies to pick up more of the costs of abortions.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: I am so pleased today to be joined by Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas. Congressman, thank you so much for being here.
Rep. Michael McCaul: Oh, thanks for having me, Virginia.
Allen: So, right now the world is watching. They are watching Russia as it continues to invade Ukraine. And China, even more importantly, is watching to see how America responds. How do you think China perceives America right now?
McCaul: Well, there’s no question that Chairman Xi [Jinping] is watching Ukraine very closely in terms of his calculations as to whether he should invade Taiwan, and it will have direct ramifications and implications to that.
The good news is, it’s not going so well for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. We were told this would be over in three to four days and the Ukrainian resistance has been inspiring. They’re actually, 10% of their combat troops, Russians have been killed, which is more than we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan in 20 years.
But we need to give them more weapons and more lethal weapons. I know the president’s over meeting with NATO about this right now. But there’s no question that Xi is looking at this and taking notes about what works and what doesn’t. I think, unlike Russia and Ukraine, China could really overpower Taiwan.
And our lesson learned is that we need to provide them with the lethal weapons that they need to defend themselves from China. And that would be anti-ship, anti-aircraft, sea mines. We need a stronger presence in the South China Sea. And we need to look at some of these economic alliances.
Sanctions would not be as effective against China. We’re very, unfortunately, very reliant on them, supply chain-wise, and they also have their digital yuan currency, that, if it goes crypto, could evade sanctions. So they’re a little more ahead of the curve than the Russians, I think, but they’ve always wanted to do this. And I think they see a weak president and they see this is perhaps the time to do it.
Allen: Is there movement right now in Congress, in the Biden administration to be supporting Taiwan? Are we going to take those steps that you’ve just mentioned or is it going to be another situation where we don’t take action until really it’s too late?
McCaul: And that’s why that was critical with respect to Ukraine. He sat on a weapons package last November. In my position as a top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I sign off on all these foreign weapons sales.
And so we need to start this now and not wait until after an invasion occurs, because an invasion by the Chinese Communist Party would be over in a matter of days, if we don’t start acting now as a deterrent as well. So that will be something we’re having very intense discussions with the administration about.
I’ve signed off on F-16s in the past to go to Taiwan to protect themselves. But they’re very much outnumbered if you look at, they can’t go toe-to-toe with China, but they have to have what’s called asymmetric weapons where they can have a cutting edge in stopping.
Allen: So, as you mentioned, you’re the Republican leader on the Foreign Affairs Committee. You’re really in the weeds of all of this and we hear people a lot throw around, well, China’s a threat, and they kind of say that. What exactly does that mean specifically for America? What are the threats that China poses to the U.S. right now and in the next two, three, four, five years?
McCaul: I think long term, they’re the greatest national security threat to the United States. But we’re in a competition, it’s a global competition. We got to compete with China and not just call the Chinese Communist Party bad. We have to be more competitive when it comes to artificial intelligence, to quantum computing, to 5G.
This is a global competition for economic and military dominance, and they’re clear about this. And if we don’t start waking up, we’re going to find, my kids, the next generation, it’s going to be their fight in the long term.
I chair the China Task Force. I look at all the espionage taking place, look at the intellectual property theft taking place. They just launched a hypersonic missile that went around the world and landed with precision. Remember, we don’t have these weapons and we can’t deter them because they can zigzag in the air. And of course, Russia fired two off in Ukraine as well.
So we got to also stop exporting our technology. They go straight into their POA, their military-industrial base, the civil-military fusion that they have. Literally, that hypersonic was built on the backbone of American technology, so why in the world are we allowing companies in the United States to do that just to have it turned right back at the United States? We can do business with them, but if it’s going into their military, that needs to stop.
Allen: Yeah. Right now there’s a bill in Congress that is supposed to really address some of these threats from China. It’s called the America Competes Act. And in February the House passed it, the Senate’s taking it up. If passed, this bill will authorize literally hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending. But what will it do to actually address the threats of the Chinese Communist Party?
McCaul: So, this is one of these legislative fiats. It comes out of the speaker’s office late at night and not a lot of input from the committees and it’s all this stuff thrown together, a lot of poison pills in it.
One of the bills that’s in there that is, I think, one of the top ones is the bill I introduced called the Chips for America Act. And this was built on the last administration, working with Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, [State Secretary Mike] Pompeo on getting TSMC out of Taiwan and going into Arizona.
What this basically does is it incentivizes the semiconductor manufacturing companies to bring and invest and expand their operations in the United States. And we do that through tax incentives and a grant program, which already we’re seeing, like, Samsung in my district has expanded, Intel’s expanding, Micron’s going to expand, but we have to get it over the finish line.
And that’s one of those bills in there that not only will help provide more manufacturing jobs in the United States, but protect our national security.
These chips, the advanced ones, go in everything from your phone to most advanced weapon systems. We can’t afford to have those compromised and have our advanced weapon systems compromised. They also go into our vehicles. So that’s why you’re seeing a vehicle shortage, is because of the semiconductor chip.
We can’t be relying on China for that anymore, along with medical and rare earth minerals. There’s also a lot of research and development funding so that our national ads, we can compete with China and their Belt and Road Initiative.
But there’s also a lot of really bad stuff in there, like an $8 billion slush fund to the United Nations that could go directly into China’s operations to make batteries and solar panels. And guess where they make those? In the Xinjiang province, where they commit genocide.
I don’t know if they realized that when they put that in there, but I think to ask the U.S. taxpayer to fund the U.N. to put money into China, into a province where they commit genocide, is just completely unacceptable.
Allen: Then what are maybe the first one or two steps that both the Biden administration and Congress needs to be taking to actually really address the issues that we face right now with China?
McCaul: I do think this Competes Act—I’m an eternal optimist, I’ll be on this conference committee—if we can strip out all the bad stuff in there, the poison pills, and keep the Chips for America Act in there, keep what’s called the Endless Frontiers package, which would help with innovation and research and development in the United States.
At the end of the day, China’s putting a lot of money, they’re putting a trillion dollars in their digital economy. They’re putting a lot in Huawei, artificial intelligence, quantum. We have to compete with them and we got to do it now.
And it is a national security issue, long term, and we got to be on the field. We got to be in Africa, in Latin America, and the Indo-Pacific competing with them, otherwise we’re going to wake up and find, as we sort of are to some extent today, that they’re everywhere.
Allen: And speaking of them being everywhere, I think people, they’re watching to see what exactly the relationship between Russia and China is right now, as we’re watching things unfold in Ukraine. What do we know about that? Are Russia and China working together? To what extent? What do we know?
McCaul: Well, it’s interesting. Historically, [President Richard] Nixon went to China as a wedge against Russia, the Soviet Union, because they were not allies. But I think the most alarming thing about the Beijing Olympics was to see Mr. Putin and Chairman Xi standing hand-in-hand in this unholy alliance, talking about how they are fully united, that they defend each other, in terms of territory.
China’s saying that NATO is being aggressive rather than Putin. Putin’s saying that China has every right to Taiwan. They’re backing each other up. And we think they’re also backing each other up from a disinformation campaign standpoint. And I worry that you’re going to see more financial assistance coming from China to try to bolster Russia’s economy.
For China, they want a partner like Russia, but I do think they’re also worried that Putin has over-calculated, that he’s stretched his forces too far, and he’s obviously having a lot of problems right now.
Allen: Yeah. Do you think that we’ll see a strengthening of that alliance or do you think that you sort of have two entities that want power for themselves, China and Russia? Do you think they’ll kind of maintain a little bit of geopolitical separation or we’re going to see them come together even more?
McCaul: China is, they’re very good at the game of deception, so they will use Russia to the extent it benefits them, but they’ll also help them to the extent they can without getting a lot of blowback from the United States.
Again, the sanctions will be more difficult with China because we’re so interdependent. COVID is a wake-up call that we’re too dependent on them supply chain-wise. And I think that’s something that we’re going to, if we get the majority back, we’re going to be looking at cash flows into China, technology exports into China that are turned into their military machine that will be turned against Taiwan and eventually against the United States.
What I find very interesting, when I came back from Poland and the Ukraine border, it felt eerily reminiscent of 1939, like when the Nazis invaded Poland.
So you had this almost Hitler-esque type person, Putin, biggest since World War II, that we’re seeing in Ukraine. And at the same time, you have an Asian power, in this case, China, not Japan, but also being very aggressive in the South China Sea. It’s almost the same war kind of playing out that my father fought, and he was a World War II veteran.
Allen: Wow. Well, why do you think that Putin chose this moment to invade Ukraine? Obviously he’s wanted power for a long time, but why invade now?
McCaul: He never viewed Ukraine as independent. It’s always part of Mother Russia. It’s the bread basket of Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church came out of the Ukraine area. They have a lot of ties to Ukraine, so he’s never fully accepted that it’s independent.
And so Crimea was part of this. He annexed that. The Donbas region, he’s slowly trying to. And they claim those are independent states, but this has always been on his wish list, his bucket list. The question was when, when to do it.
So that takes me to the next point. And I think after the Afghanistan debacle, I think he saw great weakness in President [Joe] Biden and made the decision. And his military advisers, I think, oversold it to him that he could take it over in three, four days and set up a puppet government. But I do think weakness invites aggression.
I think history teaches us that. I think you saw that with Chamberlain and Hitler in World War II. It took a Churchill to come in, talk about appeasement, and a Reagan to come in, talk about peace through strength.
These axioms are historically true, that if they see a president projecting strength, they’re less likely to want to show aggression. People argue and debate whether [under] President [Donald] Trump this would’ve ever happened. But one thing I can tell you is, they did fear him and he was unpredictable.
Allen: If you had to rate President Biden’s foreign policy on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being really excellent and strong, what score would you give the president’s foreign policy?
McCaul: Well, I think the way they started out with lifting the sanctions, waiving the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 that Congress mandated—I led the charge on that. And then I took the presidential waiver out and they killed that in the Senate. That really gave a sort of blank check to Putin to complete his pipeline into Europe. And again, he saw weakness.
Then the New START Treaty, he immediately renewed it without any concessions from Putin and Russia. Then you saw the debacle in Afghanistan. It kept going on and on, and he’s seeing weakness. And so all of a sudden Chairman Xi and Putin are thinking that “this is our time.” I would give him relatively low marks.
I will tell you in all candor where I think they have done a good job, and it’s probably more to Putin’s credit than Biden. And that is, I’ve never seen NATO more united. They’ve been on life support for quite some time. Trump tried to get the 2% [gross domestic product], now Germany’s stepping up to the plate and they are going to put 2% of their GDP into their military.
And I think our NATO allies in Europe are understanding that this is their responsibility, it’s in their backyard, and they need to start stepping up to the plate and taking care of it and not just relying on the United States. So I think that’s a positive sign.
I think also the U.N. resolution condemning the invasion and 141-to-5 vote was very strong and gave a very strong signal to Putin that you’re kind of alone in this fight. You don’t have very many allies. In fact, the entire world has now turned against you. That has a very big impact on his psyche and that’s very important for him.
Allen: On the world stage, what do you think we’re going to see in the next month? Obviously, there’s a lot of balls up in the air, a lot of things still happening. Everything is TBD in Ukraine. Any predictions?
McCaul: Well, what I’d like to see is we get the S-300s in. Those are the Russian anti-aircraft that the Ukrainians can operate that can only come from the eastern NATO countries. They’re working on that right now. Should have had those in before. The lethal drones, if we can give this equipment to them, they’re already doing a great job, but this will really help them turn the tide.
And I never thought I would maybe say that they could actually defeat the Russians, but it’s hard when you’re on the offense. It’s easier when you’re defending.
And so, I think some talk about a negotiated settlement. It’d be great if the blood shed was so high. They’ve lost more soldiers in 20 days than we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan in 20 years. So this is going to play back home and it’d be great to see, eventually, Putin thrown out of power.
What do I not want to see? I do not want to see weapons of mass destruction. I worry that Putin will be put in a desperate situation. As I always compare, like a scorpion backed into a corner and he is going to sting and his stinger are two things, chemical weapons that he he’s used before and these short-range tactical nukes that would really change the entire ballgame here.
And I think it’s important the president talk to NATO allies about red lines in the event we start seeing things like this. I think they’ve already committed war crimes. It just came out today. [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken has assessed through the intelligence community that they have. But throwing chemical weapons or nukes into Ukraine is certainly crossing the line, and I think it should be a red line.
Allen: Congressman Michael McCaul, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.
McCaul: Thanks, Virginia. Thanks for having me.
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