The following is a transcript of an interview with Reps. Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi that aired on «Face the Nation,» on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We’re joined now by the two leaders of that new House select committee on China, Congressmen Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi. Welcome to the program.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have your first hearing on Tuesday. What is the message you both hope to send with it?
REP. MIKE GALLAGHER: Well, first, let me say how excited I am to work with Ranking Member Krishnamoorthi. He is a hopeless Bears fan. But he is smart and clear-eyed when it comes to the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party. And in addition to elucidating that threat, I want to send a message that the committee’s work is going to be bipartisan. Speaker McCarthy wants to be bipartisan. And I firmly believe that besides its own people, what the Chinese Communist Party fears most is the idea of Republicans and Democrats working together to counter CCP aggression.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the question is can you maintain bipartisanship? The vote to create the committee was bipartisan, concerns bipartisan, but this spy balloon incident, things got very political very fast. How do you manage that?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I echo the Chairman’s sentiments and though he is a Packers fan, I am glad to work with him. Look, I think that you’re absolutely right, that the spy balloon incident quickly became political. And, you know, unfortunately, some folks on the other side took it as an opportunity to bash the President with regard to the Chinese Communist Party, even though on the whole, I think he handled it very well. Mike is right that, you know, the Chinese Communist Party likes nothing better than to have divisions between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, their chief political theorist, a guy named Mr. Wang Huning has said that this is a huge weakness in America that Democrats and Republicans don’t get along. And so we have to get over that to be effective.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So help me understand the purpose of this committee because you have the House Foreign Affairs Committee, you have the Intelligence Committee. This committee was particularly focused, as I understand it on the Communist Chinese Party threat, including here in the U.S. So what is the extent of the activities here in the U.S.? I know you, Congressman Gallagher, have been looking at police stations, Chinese police stations on U.S. soil?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, I think the Chinese spy balloon incident illustrates perfectly that this isn’t just an over there problem. This isn’t just a matter of some obscure territorial claim in the East China Sea. This is a right here at home problem. This is a threat to our sovereignty. So yesterday, I went with committee member Democrat Ritchie Torres to the site of one of these CCP police stations in the heart of New York being used to harass and surveil Chinese dissidents, we then met with a group of Chinese students on American campuses that have been subject to harassment and in some cases, physical assault. So we may call this a strategic competition, but it’s not a tennis match. This is about what type of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in Xinjiang-lite? Or do we want to live in the free world where we’re free from fear, free to speak our minds and free to choose our own future?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Xinjiang. You’re referring to where there are concentration camps for Muslim minorities in China. When you talk about those police stations, 54 overseas police stations according to the Spanish-based human rights watchdog, so help me understand how- I mean the State Department says they don’t like this, the FBI doesn’t like this. How is that possible that this is on U.S. soil?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, unfortunately, there are certain nonprofit organizations that the Chinese Communist Party has used to try to do espionage and to crack down on Tibetans and Hong Kongers and Uyghur- Uyghur activists, and we- I’m very glad–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Living in America.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Living in America. In fact, my State of the Union guest was a Uyghur activist whose family has been imprisoned in China because she is speaking out against the genocide against Uyghurs in China. But one thing that I really want to bring to everyone’s attention is that just at the same time that we are very concerned about the CCP going after Chinese origin people here, we have to make sure that in our conversations about Chinese origin people, we don’t engage in any stereotyping or questioning people’s loyalty. One of my colleagues, unfortunately, attacked Judy Chu, the first Chinese American Congresswoman in the United States Congress, saying that somehow she’s not loyal to the United States. I find that offensive as an Asian American myself. And I want to hear Republicans also echo that sentiment that I just made, because we have to make sure that in our conversations on the committee, we stay out of xenophobia, and we make sure that we keep the focus on the Chinese Communist Party.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In fact, this was a bipartisan agreement to create the committee but House Progressives voiced concerns because of what you just said, the Vice Chair of the Asian American Caucus, that they fear, it’ll feed into bigotry. So how do you stop your work from being distorted?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I- I’d like to say that I’m hoping that the Chairman will echo my sentiments with regard to Judy Chu and the attack on her. We can’t go that route. Again, the Chinese Communist Party loves it when we are internally fractious and they like it when we are stereotyping. We have to avoid that. And we have to hold the Chinese Communist Party available- accountable for specific activities and deal with those.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I think he asked you to call someone out.
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, let me say we should not question anybody’s loyalty to the United States. I think that is out of bounds. It’s beyond the pale. If there are concerns about a specific organization, and as a matter of fact the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification isn’t- is tied, directly subordinate to the United Front Work Department of the CCP, then we should work with our colleagues to apprise them that they might be targets for CCP United Front Work. CCP influence- as a former counterintelligence officer, I can tell you, we are a soft target in Congress. But absolutely, we shouldn’t question anybody’s loyalty. And going forward, I think what’s critical and the reason we actually got the committee renamed to focus on the Chinese Communist Party, is to constantly make that distinction between the party and the people, and the people are often the primary victims of the CCP’s aggression and repression.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I read in the National Review, that you are going to require all of those testifying to disclose foreign ties, not just to the Chinese Communist Party. But given how extensive the ties are in the business community, there is really no difference according to US intelligence between the state and the Chinese business community, everyone’s gonna have to disclose this. I mean, how do you reassure people that this doesn’t steer into Joseph McCarthy territory?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, I- Joseph McCarthy’s from my district, he’s buried in my district, we need not exhume his body and reanimate it. And I’ve written to the extent of, we must constantly be aware of going overboard as we try and win this competition with China. That being said, there are disclosure requirements similar to that for most committees for testifying, our bar is slightly higher, given the nature of our work. I’m confident we can work through the complexity. But you’re right, I think what makes this competition more complex in many ways than the old Cold War is we never had to contemplate selective economic decoupling with the Soviet Union, because our economies didn’t interact. This in my mind, as sort of a military guy, is the most difficult area of competition, but we have to safeguard our own economy and make sure that we’re not unwittingly financing genocide or P.L.A. modernization.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The P.L.A. is the Chinese military. So is it true, you’re calling in the NBA Commissioner to testify?
REP. GALLAGHER: We’re hoping to have a conversation first with the NBA, with Disney, other companies that my constituents and others have voiced concern over. We haven’t issued any announcement about hearings besides the one we’re having on Tuesday night. But I think we can have a productive conversation with companies that have substantial business interests in China, and we want to make sure that the power of the Chinese economy is not seducing certain companies into betraying American values.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: I- can I just jump in?
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have subpoena power?
REP. GALLAGHER: We do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you use it for corporations?
REP. GALLAGHER: If we need to. I think if we want someone to testify, and we believe their presence is essential to the committee function, I want to do it in a bipartisan fashion.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think, at the heart of this committee, we do not have a quarrel with the people of China. The differences that we have are with its CCP, the Chinese Communist Party. And indeed, many of our businesses have ties with the Chinese economy, we are some of the most intertwined economies in the world. The- the challenge for our committee, indeed our country is, how do we continue to engage the People’s Republic of China, but at the same time, protect ourselves, our values, our interests, and our alliances with our partners and friends and- and others in the Indo-Pacific region.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I imagine your issues with Disney and the NBA have to do with things like changing messages to censor things that can’t be said that are critical? Is that it?
REP. GALLAGHER: The NBA incident I think caught a lot of attention. Here you had an NBA executive who merely tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters. And remember these people, in many cases, were out in the streets waving American flags. So they look to us for leadership. And then the NBA quickly moved to silence that. So we just want to make sure that American companies are acting like Americans and embracing American values like- like free speech and plurality and- and things like that. So that’s- that’s the concern.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, I know that when you got back- Congressman Gallagher from Taiwan, you issued a statement that was pretty scathing in terms of a backlog you said of weapons to Taiwan. Do you consider there to be slowness on the part of the administration? Or is this more of an issue with private industry? Just having such supply chain constraints right now?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it’s a little bit of the latter. I think under the Biden administration, and on a bipartisan basis in Congress under the National Defense Authorization Act from the last Congress, we did- we took unprecedented steps to provide additional armaments under the Taiwan Relations Act, under which we are obligated to provide articles of defense to Taiwan, but we need to do more. Because what we know is that the CCP, as you said in your last interview with CIA Director Burns, is- wants to have the capability to successfully invade Taiwan by 2027, if not sooner. So that means we have to arm or help supply Taiwan’s defense, even more rapidly than we are right now. For instance, by working with private industry to unwind supply chains, introduce more competition into the- into the mix to allow for smaller businesses and entities to provide more agile and nimble supplies of armaments. But the bottom line is, we’ve got to hustle, because at the end of the day, we want to discourage and deter aggression on the part of the CCP.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re- you’re saying your intentions here are coming from a genuine place, the concern for policymakers sometimes is that they get boxed in by politics.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Sure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know this, and everyone running for president in 2024 is going to vow to be tough on China. So how do you- how do you actually get something done in a space that’s going to become really, really hot?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, I think we can identify sort of the bipartisan center of gravity on China. Listen, we’re not naive, we’re not going to agree on 100 percent of everything, and there’s going to be meaningful disagreements within all the 2024 contenders. But I want both sides in some way to look to the committee as the area for the most forward-leaning, innovative, and bipartisan policy and legislation on China. And I think there aren’t things we can do when it comes to clearing the backlog. That’s a bipartisan issue. It predates the Biden administration, to be sure. But I emphatically agree with what Raja said about if we want to prevent another collapse of deterrence across the Taiwan Strait, then we should be working to give Taiwan the resources and asymmetric weapons they need to defend themselves. So I think we can be effective in that regard.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So two questions. You want to hold a hearing in Taiwan, I read. Is that going to happen? And can you get TikTok banned as you both are trying to do?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Who goes first?
REP. GALLAGHER: Yeah. Well, it would be- technically you could do a field hearing in a- in a foreign country. So I’ve been to Taiwan, I think it’s valuable for members to go there. I’m hoping to bring a bipartisan group at the- at the appropriate time and perhaps we could do a field hearing in Guam on the way back. But again, we have our first hearing on Tuesday. We’re gonna pass rules the morning of, so we got to crawl a little bit, then walk, and then maybe we can run with our our fancy field hearings afterwards.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is this the year TikTok gets banned?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don’t think it’s gonna get banned. I think what we’re asking for is, you know, TikTok is owned by bytedance, a Chinese company that’s required to provide its user data, including on the 140 million Americans, as well as control of algorithms, to the Chinese Communist Party upon request. All we’re saying is if TikTok is gonna operate here, don’t have that user data and algorithms controlled by an adversarial regime.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood, we will be watching your hearing on Tuesday.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you
REP. GALLAGHER: Thank you
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, gentlemen. We’ll be right back.