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205 Congress and the Updating of the U.S.-China Relationship Congressman Rick Larsen and Congressman Mark Kirk Congressman Rick Larsen, currently serving his third term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Second Congressional District of Washington state, can be reached at . Louis Lauter, Senior Legislative Assistant to Congressman Rick Larsen and Co-Staff Director of the U.S.-China Working Group, can be reached at . Congressman Mark Kirk, currently serving his third term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Tenth Congressional District of Illinois, can be reached via his website at Richard A. Goldberg, Legislative Assistant/Communications Advisor to Congressman Mark Kirk and Co-Staff Director of the U.S.-China Working Group, can be reached at . 206 Executive Summary This essay explores the role that the United States Congress can play in helping to foster mutual understanding between the respective governments and people of China and the United States. Main Argument: Although the United States benefits from ensuring that an effective and educated message emanates from Congress, unfocused debate has lately diluted the effectiveness of Congress— both rhetorically and legislatively—when legitimate issues are brought to the floor. This essay thus seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of trade, security, and other relations between the United States and China, and offers a framework to strengthen bilateral ties. Policy Recommendations: There are a number of ways to promote constructive relations between the United States and China: • view the U.S-China relationship as the most important diplomatic relationship for both countries • work to understand China’s new leadership • distinguish between the security and economic issues of the bilateral relationship • build a larger diplomatic presence in both countries • build united support for Chinese investments in the United States • expand economic markets in China for U.S. small and medium-sized businesses • foster mutual understanding of both U.S. and Chinese regional concerns • create military-to-military cooperation whenever possible • encourage congressional visits to China to evaluate America’s diplomatic presence there and build relationships with key Chinese leaders 207 A Unique Role for Congress and the U.S.-China Working Group During a speech in front of the National Committee on United States-China Relations on September 21, 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick effectively mapped out the current state of U.S.-China relations and outlined some possible pathways forward.1 Zoellick’s speech, which sought to promote broad support for creating constructive ties with China, refocuses our attention on the unique relationship between the United States and China. We would like to take this opportunity to point out the great potential that exists to develop the U.S.-China relationship through the United States Congress. Given that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) pays attention to the entire canvas of U.S. politics, Congress is the institution that can most effectively translate and transmit the feelings, aspirations, frustrations, and interests of the American people. Members of Congress—particularly those in the House of Representatives—are directly and regularly tied to their constituents at home. By paying attention to what Congress does, Chinese decisionmakers can tap into the regional and national motivations of the American people, and thus better understand U.S. interests. The United States would benefit from ensuring that an effective and educated message toward China emanates from Congress. The signals coming out of Congress—and particularly the House of Representatives—today, however, are that China offers more problems than benefits. Recently, Congress has discussed China on the floors of both the House and Senate, but has done so in an unfocused and non-productive manner. Particularly on the House floor, Congress has been melding economic and security concerns , framing China’s energy development and currency disputes as threats to the national security of the United States, and painting China’s economic expansion as a threat to the U.S. domestic economy. This frictional debate came to a head during a recent House debate on legislation critical of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) bid to purchase the U.S. oil company UNOCAL. In addition, when the legitimate issues of maintaining the European arms embargo on China devolved into a hard-line debate surrounding the East Asia Security Act, Congress lost a great opportunity to further define the U.S.-China relationship. This type of unfocused debate dilutes 1 For a reprint of this speech and...


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