Senator Chuck Schumer leads bipartisan trip to China | ET REALITY


Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation on Friday to China, where the group plans to meet with top government and business leaders at a time of rising tensions between the United States and Beijing.

Schumer, who has long taken a tough stance on China, said he would use the trip to appeal to the country’s top leaders for better economic reciprocity for U.S. companies currently being shut out of Chinese markets and for better oversight. of fentanyl exports that have increasingly found their way to the United States.

But he offered measured expectations for how much senators could help resolve the standoff between Washington and Beijing, a goal that has eluded several Biden administration officials.

“I think the Chinese will hear things differently than elected officials,” Schumer said during an interview in his Capitol office this week. Members of Congress, he added, “have their finger on the pulse of what the American people are feeling. And the good news is that the Chinese want to learn this; “They have made it clear to our people that they really want to learn this, although the conversations are not going to be ‘Kumbaya’ at all.”

Senators are hoping for a meeting with President Xi Jinping, although none have been scheduled yet. After visiting several cities in China, they will also stop in South Korea and Japan next week, before returning to Washington.

Mr. Schumer will be accompanied on the trip by Democratic Senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Jon Ossoff of Georgia; as well as Republican Senators Michael D. Crapo of Idaho and Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Schumer said it was a “propitious time” for a bipartisan delegation to try to make progress with Chinese officials.

“We don’t know if we’ll make it or not, but it’s certainly worth a try,” he added.

Schumer has a long history of criticizing Beijing over issues including currency manipulation and its aggressive behavior toward Taiwan. He’s not much of a world traveler either. In the past dozen years, Schumer has been on only two other congressional delegations abroad: a trip earlier this year to India, Pakistan, Israel and Europe, and another trip to China in 2011.

But as majority leader, Schumer brings some level of weight to talks with the United States’ main geopolitical rival. The last congressional delegation to visit China was four years ago; The last time Xi met representatives of Schumer’s rank was almost a decade ago.

“I want to hear from the Chinese exactly what bothers them about the United States, just as I think they should hear what bothers us about China,” he said, noting that senior Biden administration officials had encouraged him to arrange the trip. .

“When you talk candidly, you can solve those problems better than when you beat around the bush,” Schumer added.

At the top of Schumer’s list of irritants is what he sees as a lack of reciprocity in economic relations.

“Our electric cars are not allowed in China; “Your electric cars are allowed here,” he said, arguing that if China allowed “a more level playing field, that would solve a lot of problems.”

He confirmed that he and Crapo plan to raise concerns about China preventing American semiconductor manufacturing company Micron, which is based in Idaho and building a plant in New York, from operating there. He did not say whether senators planned to make similar appeals on behalf of other American companies, such as the consulting firm Bain & Co., that have been targeted by China’s national security law.

It is unclear how much influence senators will be able to exert. China has soured on the United States over escalating sanctions with new restrictions on American investment in its high-tech sector, including its semiconductor and microelectronics industries, and views many of its punitive actions against American companies as proportionate countermeasures.

Schumer has proposed a legislative framework to build on those restrictions with additional controls on exports and investments, but Congress is deadlocked on that issue and other initiatives to improve the United States’ ability to compete with China.

He said he was hopeful of reaching “some kind of understanding” with China on how to curb trafficking in fentanyl and related chemicals, which are fueling an overdose epidemic across the United States. A joint effort between Washington and Beijing to disrupt the illicit fentanyl trade has stalled in recent years, and Schumer has pressed Congress to pass sanctions targeting China for its role in worsening the crisis. Illicit fentanyl trafficking also tops the priority list of other senators on the trip, including Cassidy and Hassan.

“It would be much better if we didn’t need sanctions,” Schumer said. “It seems to me that this is an area where there would be enormous benefit to the United States and help Americans have a better attitude toward China, without much cost to the Chinese government.”

Schumer was less specific about how he planned to address a number of other sensitive issues, such as Taiwan or China’s dismal human rights record, including the mass displacement of the ethnic Uighur population to forced labor camps. He said he also planned to challenge Chinese officials over Beijing’s continued patronage of Russian energy, which helps Moscow perpetuate the war in Ukraine.

“The bottom line is that China doesn’t want to be isolated from the world community, it wants to be part of it and is helping someone who is an outlier,” Schumer said.

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