Written by Ebony Bowden in the New York Post on May 21, 2020

WASHINGTON — New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, one of the lawmakers elected to the new China Task Force, believes the secretive Communist nation is now among the biggest threats to the US.

In an interview with The Post, Stefanik, a rising star who has become a key adviser to President Trump, said the Republican-led task force would not only take China to task over its mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, but seek to curb its growing influence on the world stage.

“I believe that the China Task Force is not only about China’s mishandling and propaganda over the course of this pandemic. This is an opportunity to put forth policies to deal with China as a generational issue,” Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said Wednesday.

“I think that China is going to be the key challenge of the 21st century,” the upstate New York congresswoman continued, noting her stint as chair of the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, where she is now the ranking member.

“As we think about emerging threats, China is one of the most significant emerging threats that we face, not only in the United States, but that we face when we’re partnered with our allies,” she said.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy earlier this month announced the formation of the task force — originally planned as a bipartisan panel with Democrats before they abandoned the idea, he said.

“We will be looking at a broad range of China-related issues, including influence operations targeting the US, the economic threat to our government and allies, efforts to gain the technological advantage, and China’s role in the origin and spread of COVID-19,” McCarthy said.

Washington lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have sounded the alarm over China’s attempts to cover up the origins of the virus, which broke out in Wuhan in late 2019, in addition to America’s reliance on the Communist-ruled nation for key goods such as medical supplies.

The country’s Communist Party has ramped up propaganda amid the crisis — blaming the outbreak on American soldiers in China and portraying COVID-19 victims as martyrs.

Stefanik, 35, said her focus would be returning manufacturing to the US and leapfrogging China’s attempts to become the leader on artificial intelligence.

“Manufacturing is a key concern. This crisis has highlighted our overreliance on China when it comes to PPE, ventilators and life-saving pharmaceutical drugs,” she said.

“I hear this from my voters much more so than ever before, that there is this overwhelming interest in bringing back our manufacturing capabilities,” she continued.

“I think that the China case is going to be more and more important as we get to the election,” she added.

Republicans are mounting China as a key election issue — rather than have November be a verdict on Trump’s handling of the pandemic — with former veep Joe Biden consistently ahead in presidential polls.

GOP lawmakers have become increasingly bullish on China — with Sen. Josh Hawley of Arkansas giving an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Wednesday about how the US would not take “second place to the imperialists in Beijing.”

Stefanik, who also sits on the powerful House Intelligence Committee, was critical of its chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has signaled he wants to conduct an investigation into the president’s coronavirus response, which he claimed had a “profound and disturbing echo” to impeachment proceedings.

With her voice carrying increasing gravitas, Stefanik spent the past weekend with Trump at Camp David to advise him on his plan to reopen the cratering US economy.

“Republicans on the [Intelligence] committee have been frustrated that there has not been nearly enough focus, or any focus, on this looming threat of China,” she told The Post.

“This is what’s so frustrating with Schiff’s obsession on impeachment and they’re continuing to put out information that they want to continue to pursue impeachment. The American people have moved beyond that,” she continued.

Stefanik said Congress needed to focus on China’s capabilities and the threats it posed, saying America’s allies in the Pacific — including Australia, which is currently being threatened with trade sanctions for wanting to investigate China — had been raising the alarm for years.

“We need to take note and really work with those strong relationships to ensure that we have a strategy, and we have the proper intelligence capabilities, when it comes to understanding what China is doing,” she said.

You can read the full article at https://nypost.com/