This study discusses Sino-American tensions and their impact on the US-Japan relationship as examined through the latest moves in the U.S. Congress with unchallenged authority and power often times eclipsing the Executive Office of the President (EOP).
China and America seem unable to find common ground in the midst of their full-blown trade war triggered by American tariffs. The international community is at a turning point dubbed a "Sino-American Cold War." The Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2019 is a case in point.
Merely observing the EOP alone does not show the big picture of the moves made by the United States. Defense authorization bills are drafted by the Armed Services Committees of Congress. Draft bills are submitted to Congress, once the drafting lead by their respective chairs is complete. Discussion is repeated to address any conflicting opinions in the House and Senate. Proposed amendments are reviewed by the committees, the entirety of the House, and the entirety of the Senate. It usually takes a great deal of effort to finalize a bill among Congressional members, who represent the different interests of voters from different states. Nonetheless, the latest bill managed to include measures to:
• strengthen the powers of agencies that review any merger or acquisition of American companies by foreign companies;
• prohibit government agencies from using services and devices provided by five major Chinese telecommunication companies, including ZTE and Huawei, effective August 2019, and to terminate any dealings with companies that use products from these five companies, effective August 2020;
• exclude China from joining the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises
• restrict Confucius institutes (which offer language courses at 110 American universities, etc.) from sponsoring educational institutions in the United States
The bill also mentions that the exclusion of China from RIMPAC exercises can be lifted on the condition that China gives up all claimed islands in the South China Sea, suspends their development, and removes weapons systems from them.
The Congressional voting results for this bill are striking. Members were decisively in favor across party lines both in the House (359 vs 54) and the Senate (87 vs 10). The cross-party backing was strong enough even to override any veto by President Trump. Encouraged by the bill, Congress toughened its stance on China.
Unquestionably, Congress is increasingly concerned with President Trump. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, who chairs Senate Finance Committee urged Congress to reflect deeply on its mistake of delegating "too much authority to the President of the United States." Grassley furiously protested about Trump's imposition of tariffs on Mexico and Canada under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, calling the tariffs imposed on friendly nations on security grounds "unacceptable." Grassley orchestrated efforts to rein in the President's authority under Section 232. His draft bill in March 2019 to achieve this goal was reportedly endorsed by 12 Republican senators.
Another concern of Congress these days is to alter the current presidential power is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). It is enacted by Congress in 1977, and ever since, presidents have exercised the special powers granted when an emergency is declared, and 29 such emergencies are active to date. President Trump frequently resorts to IEEPA sanctions, such as those imposed on Iran and North Korea.
Since 2012, Congress' approval rating had mired at just about 10 percent until it slightly improved to about 20 percent. President Trump does not deviate from public opinion when he calls Washington a swamp and promises to smash the establishment. As a matter of fact, Americans tend to dislike insiders, professional politicians, and elites in Washington. They believe lobbyist groups are in control of the opaque and complex dynamics of Congress. Elites detest Trump as being a policy novice. All the more so, quite a few Americans support Trump.
Such challenges remain, but the (complex) process in Congress is necessary for gaining consensus among its members. That is exactly why the important dynamics and moves in Congress to ensure legislative consistency must be more carefully observed and analyzed.
Congress is a research subject of increasing importance these days, when our attention tends to be carried away by the behaviors of the President and his attention-grabbing policies.
For these reasons, this study of the U.S. Congress examines Sino-American tensions over security and other issues based on an analysis of presented bills, moves made by the members, and how they are discussed in committees. The study also considers how these dynamics affect the relationship with Japan before moving on to consider where the United States is headed to.