Senate Raises Debt Limit While China Criticizes US Military
The US Senate voted to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion on Wednesday, a figure that will stave off the possibility of a potential default until early 2023. Meanwhile, the US has imposed human rights-related sanctions against Chinese individuals and entities, a move that prompted backlash from Chinese officials.
Congress Approves Increase To Federal Borrowing Limit
The House voted 221 to 209 early Wednesday morning and approved legislation to raise the federal borrowing limit, which would allow the US government to resume borrowing to finance its obligations until after the 2022 midterm elections.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced a deal to allow the Senate to increase the debt ceiling without the threat of a Republican filibuster. The approach was a one-time fast-track process to prevent payment cuts to Medicare, a national health insurance program in the US.
The vote came as the Treasury Department had warned it would be unable to pay the nation’s bills after Wednesday, which would trigger a default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently warned that a US default would cause “irreparable” harm.
“We’re likely to end up with a financial crisis, certainly a recession,” Yellen said, adding that it will also have “longer-lasting consequences of higher interest rates for everyone who borrows.”
“The full faith and credit of the United States would be impaired, and our country would likely face a financial crisis and economic recession as a result.”
Backing the measure, President Biden’s desk praised Senate leaders for “fulfilling this fundamental legislative and constitutional responsibility.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Schumer said that the American people can now “breathe easy and rest assured there will not be a default.” He also pointed out that the debt is accumulated by both parties, which brings the need for Republicans and Democrats to come together and facilitate a process to make addressing the debt ceiling possible.
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Meanwhile, China Bites Back Against US Sanctions
On Friday, the US imposed extensive human rights-related sanctions on dozens of people and entities tied to China and some other countries. As part of the sanctions, the US added SenseTime, a Chinese artificial intelligence company, to an investment blacklist.
Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary, said in a statement:
“Our actions today, particularly those in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, send a message that democracies around the world will act against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression. On International Human Rights Day, Treasury is using its tools to expose and hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights abuse.”
For context, UN experts and rights groups believe China has detained or imprisoned over a million people, mainly Muslim minorities like Uighurs, in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang, China’s far-west region. The US and many rights groups allege China is carrying out genocide there.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Chinese authorities view Uighurs as disloyal to the Chinese Communist Party just because of their “religious, linguistic, and cultural differences.” And more recently, an independent UK-based court also ruled that China has committed genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture against Uighurs and other minorities.
However, China denies abuses in Xinjiang. On Monday, Wang Wenbin, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, defended the country’s policy in dealing with the Muslim Uighur community, saying it is determined “to combat violence, terrorism, separatism, and religious extremist forces”.
Wenbin also denounced the sanctions and urged the US to withdraw its recent passing of sanctions.
“We urge the US to immediately withdraw the relevant wrong decision and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and harming China’s interests. If the US acts recklessly, China will take effective measures to strike back resolutely.”
Meanwhile, Wenbin criticized the recent Summit for Democracy hosted by the US, accusing the US of hypocrisy. “The Summit for Democracy exactly betrayed US true nature as a destroyer of democracy while stripping it of its disguise as a defender of democracy,” Wang said.
What do you think will happen with China and the US as relations break down? Let us know in the comments below.