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U.S. and China flags on the desk of U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno as he met with commanders of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Beijing, China, Feb. 21, 2014. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle/Released)
U.S. Army/Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle

Getting the U.S.–China relationship right is a matter of great importance not only to the people of the United States and China, but also to the rest of the world. The stakes—for global security, conflict prevention, the furthering of human rights, and the health of the global economy—are very high.

Congress is currently considering legislation that could have a significant impact on this relationship moving forward. As lawmakers negotiate the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S.1260), and its House counterpart, the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2541), advocates are increasingly concerned the bills, unless significantly revised, are likely to do more harm than good.

Opportunities and Areas of Concern

Non-governmental organizations are sounding the alarm that this legislation could exacerbate nationalism in China, while feeding the mutually destructive security competition underway between the United States and China. The last thing the world needs is an arms race, which could escalate the risk of conflict and undermine the urgent need for cooperation between our governments around the shared challenges we face, including climate change, pandemics, and global poverty.

FCNL is working with partners to urge Congress to put dialogue and cooperation at the center of our policy, rather than conflict and one-upmanship. Specifically, we’re calling on members of Congress to amend current legislation so it:

  • Moves away from a focus on competition and conflict at the expense of cooperation and reassurance. We must avoid a potential arms race. We cannot do that by embracing a framework of zero-sum rivalry.
  • Invites cooperation in places where our countries can work together to advance the public good—including addressing the climate crisis.
  • Emphasizes our support for human rights in China, including refugee protections for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
  • Reduces tensions in the Taiwan Strait and provides a framework for future negotiations around arms control as well as safety protocols and confidence-building measures regarding Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.

Multilateralism Remains the Best Way Forward

The zero-sum approach pursued by the Trump administration has left many other countries feeling pressured to choose sides between the U.S. and China. The United States Innovation and Competition Act and the America COMPETES Act have the potential to make that worse.

This growing pressure points to the essential role that strong global and regional institutions can play in maintaining peace and stability. Yet, for over 25 years, an arbitrary cap enacted by Congress has prevented the U.S. government from paying its full dues to UN peacekeeping, without short-term waivers. As a result, since 2017, the United States has accrued more than $1 billion in debt to these operations.

As lawmakers look to chart a new policy on China, we have an opportunity to address this deficit and strengthen the United Nations.

The U.S. Commitment to U.N. Peacekeeping Act (H.R. 4420), introduced by Rep. Sara Jacobs (CA-53), is one of many provisions which may be offered as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act. It would lift the arbitrary 25% cap on U.S. contributions to UN peacekeeping, allowing the United States to fulfill its treaty obligations while encouraging progress on critical peacekeeping reforms.

Friends are called to help build a foundation for world peace. We are at an inflection point for U.S.-China relations. What Congress does next will be crucial. Lawmakers must take this opportunity to ensure that the United States and China resolve the challenges before our two countries and the world through dialogue and cooperation.

Jessie Palatucci

Jessie Palatucci

Director of Digital Communications

Jessie Palatucci served as FCNL’s director of digital communications from 2018-2024. In that role she oversaw FCNL’s digital advocacy program and web communications. She wrote extensively for FCNL’s digital publications and communicated with advocates throughout the U.S.