Former VP Pence calls on US President Biden to get tougher on China, COVID-19 origins

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Former Vice President Mike Pence is calling on President Joe Biden to toughen his stance on China, including delisting Chinese companies that don’t meet US accounting standards, withholding research funds and demanding that China reveal the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pence said the Chinese regime is a threat to the US that aspires to be the dominant global power, and he slammed the Biden administration for rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and other moves that he said benefit China.

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“Weakness arouses evil. China senses weakness in the new administration,” Pence, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, said in the speech billed as his third major Indo-Pacific policy speech since taking office in 2017. The appearance also marks his first comments about the origins of Covid-19 since the end of his term, during which he led the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The former vice president said the US must demand that China “come clean about the origins of the coronavirus,” with some scientists refusing to rule out the possibility of an accidental leak from a Wuhan research facility. The Biden administration also has called for China to share evidence with outside researchers.

Pence also called for an end all public and private funding of scientific research in China.

The speech comes as Biden’s administration begins to reveal a hard-edge policy on China. The administration plans to warn US companies this week of the increasing risks of operating in Hong Kong. And Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her staff have no plans to resurrect the regular US-China economic dialogue that governed ties between the two nations during the Bush and Obama administrations.

The latest developments also occurred as White House officials discuss proposals for a digital trade agreement covering Indo-Pacific economies, including rules on the use of data, trade facilitation and electronic customs arrangements, according to people familiar with the plans.

US-China ties were already strained over the pandemic and tariffs imposed by the Trump administration when Pence left office in January.

Relations between the world’s two biggest economies have only become more tense since then.

In addition to calling for the delisting of some 240 Chinese companies, Pence called for accelerating the decoupling of the US and Chinese economies in key industries. He said the US should ban Chinese investment in critical US infrastructure projects, end federal subsidies for American farmland held by Chinese entities and increase the number of Chinese companies prohibited from American investment “by at least an order of magnitude.”

Pence said Biden also should immediately prohibit the issuance of H1-B visas to Chinese nationals employed by US technology companies “to protect American intellectual property and national security and increase the readiness of the US Navy to protect shipping in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The former vice president also said Biden must demand that the 2022 Winter Olympics be moved from Beijing unless China comes clean on the origins of Covid-19 and ends its repression of ethnic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

Pence joined the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow and launched the advocacy group Advancing American Freedom after he left office.

The former vice president has also given speeches in early presidential primary states looking ahead to a potential 2024 bid and spoke last month on the future of the Republican Party at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

Read more: China denounces G7 statement, urges group to stop slandering country

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