Jul 29, 2022 - World

First look: New House bill aims to boost U.S. government expertise on China

Congressman Ami Bera

Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) speaks at the House Committee On Foreign Affairs on March 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Ting Shen-Pool/Getty Images)

A bipartisan House bill introduced Friday would require the State Department to hire more people with China-related expertise.

The big picture: The draft legislation calls on the U.S. government to "further invest in relevant linguistic, cultural, and regional expertise to effectively engage in strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China."

Details: Rep. Ami Bera (D-Ca) and Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky), members of the House foreign affairs committee, co-sponsored the Expand eXpertise in China Education and Language Act (EXCEL Act).

  • The bill directs the Secretary of State to appoint at least 31 candidates with Chinese language skills and areas of expertise to positions in the competitive service.
  • It also creates a bipartisan China Strategic Advisory Board, with members appointed by Democrats, Republicans and the Secretary of State, to oversee the training and recruitment of staff with expertise related to U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The bill directs the Comptroller General to conduct a study of personnel at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development and to identify personnel gaps in the Indo-Pacific region.

What they're saying: “If we are to outcompete China and win the geostrategic competition of the 21st century, we need a much better understanding of the country’s language, history, and institutions, as well as the objectives they seek to advance in the Indo-Pacific region," Bera said in a statement.

  • "It is a national security and economic imperative that we prioritize Chinese linguistic and cultural competencies on a long-term basis,” Bera added.
  • “Part of deterring the Chinese Communist Party is knowing the Chinese Communist Party. America did this well during the Cold War and that effort was critical in freedom prevailing over Communism," Barr said in a statement. "It’s time to double down on this strategy."

Context: There is strong bipartisan support in Congress for increasing U.S. competitiveness against China.

  • Congress just passed the long-awaited CHIPS Act, which provides $280 billion to support scientific research and the domestic production of semiconductors, both deemed vital to help the U.S. keep up with China's rapid technological advances.
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