A newly formed House committee focused on examining U.S.-China relations held its first hearing on Tuesday night, where experts said the U.S. is falling behind China technologically and activists raised concerns over China’s record on human rights.

The House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and China, launched by Republicans, is a bipartisan committee that hopes to “investigate and explore technological, economic and military capabilities” of China, said Chairman Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., in his opening remarks.

U.S.-China relations — a growing concern

Although the two countries share a vision for a “strategic partnership,” Gallagher said the relationship isn’t a “polite tennis match,” and suggested that the U.S. is in an “existential struggle” with China, as Politico noted.

The GOP and the Democratic committee members signaled differences in how they approach U.S.-China relations, although the committee chair and ranking member made a point of recognizing their commitment to bipartisanship.

Ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said the committee should focus on helping Americans “to ‘up our game’ as a people” by investing in “technologies of the future, workforce improvement, and by fixing weaknesses in our economy, such as in our supply chains and our legal immigration system.”

But during his opening remarks, Gallagher emphasized his concerns over China’s actions to exert influence in the world. “Just because this Congress is divided, we cannot afford to waste the next two years lingering in legislative limbo or pandering for the press,” he said.

The committee hearing comes after The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Energy Department changed its conclusion about the origin of COVID-19 and said that the virus leaked out of a Chinese lab.

And recently, a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down by the U.S., as the Deseret News reported.

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Testimonies at the committee hearing

Matthew Pottinger, chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who worked under former President Donald Trump on China policy, began his testimony with a three-minute video that included quotes from Chinese officials and leaders. He spoke about detention centers, missing protesters and plans to rewrite the Bible and Quran to include socialist values.

“You could say the (Chinese Communist Party) is the Harry Houdini of Marxist-Leninist regimes; the David Copperfield of Communism; the Chris Angel of autocracy,” Pottinger said, according to his written testimony.

Pottinger described his concerns over China’s desire to achieve global supremacy. As “the United States is in decline, China is growing stronger, Russia is hardening, and Europe is in chaos,” Pottinger said, quoting a Chinese military textbook.

Retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a senior fellow at Hoover Institution, who also served in the Trump administration as national security adviser, said the U.S. has fallen behind China technologically, and said the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions are “far beyond those that are in reaction to what the United States and our allies and partners do,” whether it's in relation to social media, including TikTok, history or human rights.

Other testimonies were given by Tong Yi, a human rights activist, and Scott Paul, the president of Alliance for American Manufacturing.

The hearing lasted nearly three hours and attracted protesters from Code Pink, an activist group that says it is against American “militarism.” The protesters carried signs that said: “China Is Not Our Enemy.” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif, acknowledged the activists during his opening remarks and said, “When we listen to dissent, we show exactly what makes America different than the Chinese Communist Party,” according to his Tweet. He also said he believes the government should change its financing and purchasing policies to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

China reacts to the committee hearing

During a press conference on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said U.S. institutions and individuals should “abandon their ideological bias” and “Cold War mentality” and “stop trying to score political points at the expense of U.S.-China relations.”

She said that China views its relationship with the U.S. through three pillars: “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.”

“In the meantime, we remain committed to defending China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” she said.

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