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Congressman Mike Gallagher Describes US-China Relations as ‘Zombie Engagement’

Amid a recent flurry of U.S.-China diplomacy, a leading congressional voice on China policy is warning against concessions to Beijing, saying they simply serve to encourage even more aggressive behavior.

In an interview with VOA’s Mandarin Service, Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher said that in meetings this week with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Biden administration should focus on the defense of Taiwan, trafficking in drug precursors and human rights.

Gallagher is the chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. His remarks have been edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Washington this week. What are the most important topics you would like to see the administration raise in the meetings?

Representative Mike Gallagher: Well, I think the most important topic is cross-strait deterrence. And it seems that Xi Jinping is preparing his country for a war over Taiwan. He’s repeatedly said that he wants to take Taiwan by force if necessary, and that’s something we need to deter. We need to prevent him from doing that. A conflict between the United States and China would be incredibly costly. It’s not something we want, but all the more reason why we need to send a strong message that the increasing aggression against Taiwan will not be tolerated. We will help Taiwan defend itself. And we will do whatever is necessary to defend our own interests in the Indo-Pacific.

Beyond that, I would hope that the administration urges the Chinese Communist Party to take more aggressive action when it comes to cracking down on the production of fentanyl precursors. Fentanyl is flooding across the southern [U.S.] border, and it’s killing tens of thousands of Americans. And ultimately, it can be traced back to China. That’s unacceptable.

And finally, I hope we don’t deprioritize the issue of human rights, whether it is the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, whether it’s the, let’s say, economic coercion that’s happening globally, whether it’s the ongoing suppression of Hong Kongers, there are important human rights issues that the administration needs to raise during these meetings.

VOA: We are seeing more high-level official communications between U.S. and China. Do you think it signals a smoother and maybe a more pragmatic path for U.S.-China relations?

Gallagher: I don’t. I think the administration is trying to revive diplomatic and economic engagement in the hope of taking down the temperature, but I think the opposite is happening. It seems that the more we rush or bend over backwards to sit down at a table with Xi Jinping or some other high-level CCP member, the more aggressive the CCP becomes, and we shelve or delay critical defensive action, whether it’s ending the licensing exemptions that we provide for Chinese companies like Huawei, or providing transparency on the spy balloon incident or actually investigating the origins of COVID.

We delay these actions for fear of offending the Chinese Communist Party in the hopes that they will reciprocate in kind. And they never do. They continue to hack high-level official emails. They continue to undermine our grid and our infrastructure and cyberspace. They continue to threaten Taiwan, all of these things are unacceptable.

And so, I worry that this policy of engagement, what I’ve called “zombie engagement,” will actually have the opposite effect. It will actually make the CCP more aggressive, and we will lose time that we need to start defending ourselves from CCP aggression.

VOA: Given the current conflict in Israel and ongoing war in Ukraine, how would that affect the U.S. capability to focus on China or the Indo-Pacific and the threats posed by the CCP?

Gallagher: Well, it should be a wake-up call to the West. Increasingly, it looks like we have an axis of authoritarian powers that are arrayed against our interests and those of our allies. China is the dominant player in this partnership. Vladimir Putin is a junior partner. But increasingly, there’s collaboration with Iran. These are murderous dictatorial regimes that are threatening our allies. Putin has obviously invaded Ukraine. Hamas has now attacked Israel, killed over 30 Americans, and it could not have done so without the longstanding financial and training support it’s received from Iran.

So this should be a wake-up call. I don’t believe those who say that it’s an either/or choice between resources, you know, resources in Europe, resources in the Middle East or resources in the Indo-Pacific. This should be an opportunity for us to revitalize and rebuild our defense industrial base, which we’ve neglected for too long, to once again become the arsenal of democracy and deterrence. And if nothing else, to learn the lessons of the failure of deterrence in Ukraine and ensure that those failures are not repeated in the Indo-Pacific region.

And in my mind, the primary lesson is that hard power, American hard power gives us our best chance of deterring totalitarian aggression, and if we don’t surge hard power to the Pacific now, before it’s too late, we could see a PLA invasion of Taiwan, and it would have the potential to make the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Israel look timid in comparison.

Source : VOA News