Mitch McConnell is regularly wielding China as a bludgeon against Democratic policies and the Biden administration.
And his mentions of the East Asian superpower aren’t just in reference to what he sees as a deficient foreign policy. The Senate Republican Leader is making a consistent case that Democrats’ massive domestic social spending plan -- and accompanying tax hikes -- will serve to strengthen the Communist regime’s economy.
McConnell has mentioned China 15 times in Senate floor speeches over the past two weeks, according to transcripts, including five times on Wednesday alone. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, hasn’t talked about China in months.
“Both Republicans and Democrats would welcome a clear and coherent China strategy from this Administration. But all we are getting is a muddled mess,” McConnell said on Wednesday.
The repetitive rhetoric illuminates how toxic the Chinese image has become in the American psyche, especially following the presidency of Donald Trump, who incessantly pilloried China as a foe, and the worldwide calamity of Covid-19, which originated in Wuhan, China and paralyzed the globe.
A March Gallup poll found the share of Americans who view China as its greatest enemy doubled in the past year, from 22% to 45%. Additionally, 89% percent of Americans view China as a competitor or outright enemy, according to the Pew Research Center.
Broadly, McConnell’s China-focused critiques are three-fold.
For weeks, he has argued that the Democrats’ sweeping reconciliation package -- still being negotiated between a price tag of $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion -- will hurt American business and push investment to China.
“Their corporate tax hikes would leave American businesses paying a higher tax rate than businesses in Communist China,” McConnell said last week. On Monday, he described the tax regime as a structure where “Washington gets more, and our competitors like China can pop the champagne.”
Fiona Hill, a former Trump administration national security official, argued the investments Democrats are advocating for are meant to stay competitive with China’s students and workforce.
“They’ve had an anti-poverty campaign going on for the best part of a decade. There’s been a massive investment in education in China, and retraining. That’s just political B.S. from McConnell,” Hill said. “China has put a big emphasis on industrial policy and retraining workers. We look at it as on the individual and the private sector.”
The likelihood of a corporate tax hike has diminished due to opposition from Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who instead favors a 15% corporate minimum tax targeting 200 companies to pay for Biden’s programs.
Secondly, McConnell has targeted Democrats for “anti-energy” policies just as experts predict higher home heating bills this coming winter. He charges Democrats with allowing China a free pass to pollute just as they want to impose emission-cutting restrictions at home.
“The so-called international community that had scraped together the failed Paris deal could only get the world’s most prolific polluter, China, to agree to curb its increase in emissions nine years from now,” McConnell said last week. “That’s what this administration calls a good deal: America signs up for self-inflicted pain today, and China maybe thinks about beginning to follow suit in another decade.
The Biden administration, as The Washington Post recently reported, is conflicted about how hard to push China on reducing its carbon imprint as it also confronts the country on other sensitive issues like human rights atrocities and the government’s crackdown against Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Taiwan is the third issue McConnell has zoned in on with the Biden administration.
“Even they themselves seem to have no idea what they are doing,” he said on Wednesday.
Following a CNN televised town hall in which Biden said he would vow to protect Taiwan, an administration official was later forced to rein in that declaration.
But McConnell believes the Biden administration isn’t dedicating enough money for defense capabilities against China’s growing military aggression, citing their budget proposal for the military that fails to keep up with inflation.
“They’re too busy debating how much socialism to unleash on the country to look out for our troops, our veterans, and our national security,” McConnell said. “This unseriousness will leave Americans less safe.”
Still, the National Defense Authorization Act is proposing to allocate $778 billion to the Pentagon for fiscal year 2022 alone -- a full $37 billion increase from 2021. Biden’s “Build Back Better” reconciliation package is hovering around $2 trillion to be spent over a full decade.