Chinese observers on watch for Rubio to poison China-US ties after intelligence appointment

By Yang Sheng and Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/19 21:03:40

‘Hawks’ to gain more power in Washington DC by using pandemic

US Senator Marco Rubio speaks to journalists on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 8.Photo: AFP

 China-US relations will become more intense as hawkish US politicians extremely hostile to China have gained more power in the US Congress, Chinese analysts warned, after the intelligence committee with the authority to oversee many issues covering trade, technology, national defense and cyber affairs will be chaired by Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

CNN reported Monday that Rubio, 48, will serve as the acting chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, replacing Richard Burr, who stepped down during an FBI investigation into his stock trades. Rubio has been an "active Republican voice on US national security and foreign policy matters," and is also known as the most vocal anti-Russia and China senator, Reuters reported.

Diao Daming, a US studies expert and associate professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said that "the intelligence committee is not a standing committee in the Senate but very important and powerful. It has the power to oversee anything related to national security and intelligence. This means the committee can supervise departments and agencies in charge of intelligence, foreign affairs, national defense, finance, commerce, trade and jurisdiction."

"To some extent, the intelligence committee is even more powerful than the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services. It can cover crucial domestic and overseas issues," he noted. 

Media reported that the appointment represents a significant elevation for Rubio, who after a failed 2016 presidential campaign, is "once again seeing his star rise." 

Reuters said "the appointment makes Rubio part of the so-called Gang of Eight--the leaders of Congress and the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees who receive the most sensitive classified briefings."

Once Rubio becomes the chairman who can dominate the agenda-setting of the committee, he can use this power to influence US policy, and he will have access to confidential documents and use the committee's legislative and supervision authority to involve many issues, such as investigations or sanctions against Chinese firms in the US, as long as he considers the case is related to "national security," Diao warned.

It is almost certain Rubio will bring more challenges to China-US relations, especially his blame game to stigmatize China and even do more to further provoke China's interests, and undermine China's sovereignty and legitimate interests in the US, Chinese analysts predicted. 

Diao said "it is becoming a trend in Washington DC for politicians to hype anti-China or anti-Russia sentiment to gain visibility and more attention,  and then get promoted. After they get promoted, they will further poison US ties with other countries and make the US more aggressive."

Other hawkish Republican senators like Tom Cotton and Josh David Hawley are also using the coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic, which killed tens of thousands of Americans, as an opportunity, to gain political mileage by hyping anti-China sentiment, stigmatize China's efforts to fight the global pandemic, and play the blame game against China, observers said.

"This is not good news for China, the US and the rest of the world," he said.

Politico reported that Rubio is expected to take a similar approach as chairman — and like Burr, he has a close relationship with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. The two have teamed up on several issues, including "China's theft of intellectual property."

Rubio is also chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, which has played an important role in efforts to help the US economy recover from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Monday that the committee this week will advance the nomination of Texas Representative John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence.

Although the anti-China hawks are very popular in Washington DC, as long as the worsening epidemic and economic problems are not solved, Americans will likely "get tired of the eye-catching and buck-passing blame game they play," said Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. 

"If the Trump administration and hawkish Republican politicians keep playing such games but fail to solve problems, they would lose support, and even could be defeated in November," he said.

Newspaper headline: Rubio to further ‘poison China-US ties’


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