Apple, Cisco and other US companies with close ties to China are under increasing pressure to tackle Beijing’s “suppression of human rights and democracy,” one of President Joe Biden’s key Senate allies said in CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday .
Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., Comments came two days after his chamber passed bipartisan law to make the US more competitive with China.
Coons compared US-China relations to America’s “decoupling” from the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
While US business ties with China are now far more robust than with the USSR, Coons said there is “a gradual distancing” between the two economic superpowers.
Coons, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, also argued that Chinese behavior is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore in his own country and around the world.
Coons criticized what he called the “Great Firewall of China”, which the government uses to “block the Internet in China and demand censorship and use it to coordinate the surveillance and repression of its own people”.
Coons also noted that both Biden and Trump’s administrations labeled China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province as genocide.
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Companies trying to manufacture and operate in both countries “are facing increasingly difficult questions in the West, what are you doing to facilitate the suppression of human rights and democracy in China and by the Chinese in other parts of the world” . said Coons.
When asked what these companies should tell China now, Coons replied, “Stop stealing our intellectual property.”
“They are forcing you to transfer technology to your Chinese operations and then openly steal it from you,” he said. “You compete with us in vaccine diplomacy and in the fight for the next generation of technology.”
Coons praised a $ 250 billion bill for technology and manufacturing specifically aimed at putting the U.S. in a better position to compete with China. The bill, known as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, was passed by the Senate Tuesday with rare bipartisan support.
The bill’s substantial investment in semiconductors, 5G, quantum computing, and other industries “will make the United States and our close allies far more likely to be ahead of the curve than behind in the next generation of technologies that are dual.” Used for both civil and military purposes, “Coons said.
To oust China, we need to “coordinate our investments in new technologies,” Coons said.
He gave an example of how then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged US allies not to use Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei for security reasons.
“Many of our allies said, ‘Well, that’s interesting. What’s your alternative? ‘ And there was no American alternative, “said Coons.
“We have to invest to be competitive with China in this century.”