House Democrats examine U.S.-China tensions amid coronavirus

Washington D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — The world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China, continue to trade barbs over each other’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Trump has questioned the accuracy of China’s official death toll and accused the country of a lack of transparency, while China has defended its handling of the virus and criticized the U.S. response as slow and ineffective.

The House Intelligence Committee examined the national security and intelligence implications of this strained relationship during a hearing Wednesday.

“COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for the relationship,” said Dr. Evan Medeiros with Georgetown University.

The former National Security Council’s director for China painted a bleak picture of the country’s ties with the U.S., which he said may be more politicized than ever before.

“Some of these racially motivated terms that officials in the administration have used, like ‘kung flu,’ simply don’t help,” Medeiros told lawmakers.

Chairman Adam Schiff, D-CA, said the pandemic has underlined the two countries’ great reliance on each other for resources like medicine and medical supplies.

“Competing with China cannot and should not be a slogan,” Schiff said.

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, worries about that competition over a future vaccine.

“And the broader impact any amount of vaccine scarcity, no matter how short lived, will have on our economic and security ties,” Sewell said.  

That’s why the China experts told lawmakers economic security will be the new national security over the next several years.

“We’re at a tremendously dangerous moment where we don’t have a framework for dealing with China,” said Orville Schell, the director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.

Schell said the U.S. government needs to rethink competition with China and change policy accordingly.

“It’s with great regret that I note that your Republican colleagues aren’t at this hearing,” Schell said.

No Republicans attended Wednesday’s virtual hearing at a time when Democrats argued bipartisan work is essential to make sure U.S.-China tensions don’t continue to escalate into the next pandemic.

Top U.S. health experts said Tuesday they are keeping an eye on a new flu strain carried by pigs in China that has not yet been shown to infect humans.

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