On Wednesday, the United States Congress House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific held a hearing on “A New Era of US-China Relations.” The hearing was for the markup of House Resolution 714, which seeks to limit China’s recent maneuvers in the East and South China Seas.

As it currently stands, HR 714 reads: “Reaffirming the peaceful and collaborative resolution of maritime and jurisdictional disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea as provided for by universally recognized principles of international law, and reaffirming the strong support of the United States Government for freedom of navigation and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace in the Asia-Pacific region.”

China has been actively pursuing its interest and claims in the surrounding waters. In the East China Sea, China has declared its own Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in November of last year, and in the South China Sea China has claimed sovereignty over most of the waters and islands there, in conflict with territories claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. China has placed oil rigs within waters claimed by Vietnam, escorted by Chinese naval vessels. In December of last year, Chinese warships nearly collided with the USS Cowpens, an American guided missile cruiser, in the South China Sea.

The United States has signaled that it will pay more attention to the Asia Pacific as early as 2011, in what was called a “pivot to Asia.” However, for many commentators the pivot has been not much more than an empty slogan, as the US is returning to the Middle East to deal with Islamic militants, and negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade bloc with East and Southeast Asian trade partners, have dragged on.

The subcommittee hearing on Wednesday was presided by subcommittee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and minority ranking member Eni Faleomavaega of the American Samoa. Christopher K. Johnson, senior adviser in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and author Gordon Chang, testified.

According to Johnson, Xi presents a more confident leadership in China, and is ready to be more assertive in its foreign policy agenda with actors other than the United States, due to the perceived weakness of US president Barack Obama over his own administration. Chinese president Xi Jinping himself is on a state visit to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan this week.

On business, both expert witnesses agreed that China has used its state power to create unfair and predatory practices against the US. Chang argued that the United States must impose on China punitive measures that are more costly than the benefits China derives by disadvantaging US companies, such as stricter inspections of Chinese goods at US customs and ports, or special tariffs for intellectual property violations.

For the full video of the hearing, click here.

(Feature photo of a committee hearing, on Wikicommons)


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