“China has only become emboldened and now may be the pre-eminent threat to American security, our economy and our values,” U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, the committee’s Republican chairman, said at a hearing focused on China’s military expansion.
He said the committee would also look at issues including China’s efforts “both legal and illicit” to acquire national security technology and U.S. intellectual property, its “influence campaign” and its technology strategy.
The public hearing – unusual for a committee that conducts most of its business behind closed doors – took place the same day as Washington and Beijing were launching a second round of talks to try to avert a trade war.
Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, said he hoped the panel would hold more public hearings related to China, particularly focusing on cyber security threats.
Ahead of those talks, members of Congress, including President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, have been pushing back on suggestions that Trump might ease a clampdown on one major Chinese company, telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp, in exchange for eased agricultural tariffs.
“We need to consider that the military challenge is part of a larger national strategy by China to project its power and to secure its national interests by whatever means necessary,” Schiff said.
He said that included sales of “potentially compromising” telecommunications equipment in the United States by ZTE and Huawei [HWT.UL], another major Chinese company.
U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that ZTE’s products pose a threat to U.S. cyber security, alleging that they could be used to spy on Americans or steal intellectual property.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis