Republican Gallagher to lead new U.S. House China select committee

Chinese and U.S. flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai, China April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher was named on Thursday to lead a select committee being created in the U.S. House of Representatives to focus on economic and security competition with China.

Gallagher, a former Marine counterintelligence officer who has served on the House Armed Services Committee, has been a vocal critic of China's Communist government.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had said he would create a select committee focused on China if he is elected speaker when Republicans take control of the House in January.

"The Chinese Communist Party is the greatest geopolitical threat of our lifetime," McCarthy said in a statement as he announced Gallagher's selection.

Getting tough on China, the United States' top geopolitical competitor, has become an area of bipartisan agreement, although Democrats and Republicans differ to some degree in their priorities.

For example, the U.S. Justice Department under President Joe Biden, a Democrat, earlier this year ended a Trump-era program called the "China Initiative" focused on fighting Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft that critics had said amounted to racial profiling and chilled scientific research.

But the House this week overwhelmingly approved a compromise version of the $858 billion 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that offers up to $10 billion in security assistance for Taiwan, the democratically governed island claimed by China.

McCarthy's office has said the committee would investigate issues such as China's role as a supplier of fentanyl, Chinese government influence over U.S. academic institutions, Beijing's state and local-level lobbying efforts in the United States, and the "covert threat" of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

Analysts said Gallagher's selection signaled that McCarthy wanted serious, bipartisan cooperation on the committee.

"Gallagher has a strong track record of working across the aisle on China issues," said Eric Sayers, a nonresident fellow and China policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

"I think Democrats will be relieved he is the choice, and hopefully eager to participate in this as a truly bipartisan activity," Sayers said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Michael Martina; Editing by Sandra Maler

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