This piece was originally published in the SCIF, the blog of the National Security Institute.
Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that he would create a new select committee on China should he be elected Speaker in the 118th Congress, and this morning, announced that Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) will chair the new panel. His announcement signals that the new Republican House majority will pivot their attention to address challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the threat it poses to American economic and national security. As the lawmakers work on the rules package for the 118th to create such a committee, they should ensure that its membership and oversight jurisdiction is sufficiently broad.
Should a new select committee be created, it will likely include key members from the Intelligence, Judiciary, Armed Service, and Foreign Affairs Committees, and would rightly focus on the oversight of counterintelligence, defense, and cybersecurity risks posed by Beijing. However, to better address the China threat, House leaders should also include senior members from the Education and Labor Committee to conduct fact-finding about how the CCP exploits vulnerabilities in the American higher education system and study how the U.S. can improve its education, and in turn competitiveness, in STEM and other key subject areas.
As I wrote for The SCIF in October, Congress recently missed an opportunity to improve the security and integrity of American higher education by failing to reform Section 117 of the Higher Education Act in the CHIPS and Science Act. Section 117 requires colleges and universities to disclose payments from foreign sources, however, decades of lax enforcement by the federal government and poor compliance by postsecondary institutions have allowed China and other foreign adversaries to influence American schools. This was demonstrated in a 2019 bipartisan Senate investigation that detailed how China exploited vulnerabilities in American higher education to promote CCP propaganda and curb academic freedom on American campuses.