Apr 1, 2020 - World

D.C.'s bipartisan China consensus may be unraveling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For more than two years, Republicans and Democrats have more or less agreed the U.S. needs a China policy that acknowledges Beijing's hard authoritarian turn and the serious challenge China's growing power presents to U.S. interests.

Why it matters: The coronavirus crisis is threatening that consensus. The wedge driving Democrats and Republicans apart is concern about racism.

  • Republicans believe China is to blame for the global pandemic, and they worry that Beijing's propaganda campaign aims to erase the truth about China's early cover-up.
  • But Democrats say that emphasizing the coronavirus' links to China inflames racism against Asian Americans and that it's a cover for the Trump administration's own mishandling of the epidemic.

What's happening: Furor over a bipartisan resolution in the House last week demonstrated the growing divide.

  • The resolution, spearheaded by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), demanded that leaders in Beijing "publicly state that there's no evidence that COVID–19 originated anywhere else but China" — a reference to a disinformation campaign led by Chinese diplomats alleging the U.S. military created the virus.
  • The resolution avoided controversial phrases such as "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus." It also condemned the expulsion of American journalists from China and its mass internment of Muslim ethnic minorities.
  • Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), the lone Democratic signatory on the resolution, retracted his support after coming under heavy criticism from primary challengers and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.).

What they're saying:

  • Chu: "During a pandemic like this, people are afraid and angry, and directing that anger towards China puts [Asian American and Pacific Islanders] at risk, as we have already seen with the insults and assaults against them."
  • Moulton: "The resolution has caused division, the substance overshadowed by President Trump's divisive, xenophobic attempts to deflect from his administration's abysmal response to this virus. ... I apologize for that, and I am withdrawing my support for the resolution."

The big picture: That Democrats strongly opposed a resolution condemning well-known Chinese government missteps and human rights violations suggests that China is swiftly becoming a partisan issue.

Yes, but: The bipartisan status quo might return after the intense pressure of the coronavirus crisis has passed.

Go deeper: China to temporarily bar entry of foreigners to stop spread of coronavirus

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.

Minneapolis will ban police chokeholds following George Floyd's death

A memorial for George Floyd at the site of his death in Minneapolis. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Minneapolis has agreed to ban the use of police chokeholds and will require nearby officers to act to stop them in the wake of George Floyd's death, AP reports.

Why it matters: The agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which has launched an investigation into Floyd's death while in police custody, will be enforceable in court.