EXCLUSIVE: House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher called the Biden administration 'divided' on whether Beijing or climate change poses the greatest national security threat to the U.S., telling Fox News Digital that the split is the reason for the administration’s 'policy incoherence.'
Rep. Gallagher, R-Wis., is leading the new House committee focused on combating the threat China poses to the U.S. — a panel created for the 118th Congress by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and established with broad bipartisan support.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Gallagher said he has a relationship with the Biden administration and is confident that the committee will be able to work with officials, despite disagreements in approach.
'We can still have a bipartisan spirit that makes room for thoughtful disagreement,' Gallagher said.
And the White House National Security Council (NSC) told Fox News Digital it plans to work with the committee on the matter.
'Under President Biden, we are more prepared to outcompete China, protect our national security, and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific than ever before,' NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson told Fox News Digital. 'Many of the efforts we have been pursuing are bipartisan, underscoring the alignment at home on this key issue.'
She added: 'We look forward to the committee getting stood up and we will continue working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress on this top priority.'
But Gallagher said a challenge could be the apparent split between Biden administration officials in what the greatest threat to the nation is, and prioritizing how to address that threat.
'I think the White House is divided,' Gallagher said. 'The chairman of the Joint Chiefs will say China is our biggest short-term, near-term, long-term threat.'
Officials like FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director William Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines have repeatedly warned that China poses the greatest threat to the national security of the U.S.
'But you have some of this tension because there is a substantial portion of the administration that actually believes that climate change is our biggest existential threat,' Gallagher said, referring to officials like White House climate czar John Kerry.
'If you read the national security strategy, it talks about climate — I think it says it is an 'existential challenge' of our time, and so, this creates incoherence and lack of consistent prioritization,' Gallagher said. 'And it leads someone like John Kerry to advocate against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, because he knows that solar panels subcomponents are built with slave labor in China.'
'So I think that sort of competition between the two camps in the Biden administration explains a lot of their policy incoherence,' he added.
But a senior administration official told Fox News that they are focusing on climate change as 'a way to compete with China.'
The official pointed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which they say positions the U.S. to 'outspend China' for the first time. The official also pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act, saying the administration is focusing on making 'huge investments' to create U.S.-based manufacturing jobs and strengthening supply chains.
'Regarding China and climate change: We are focused on putting the full weight of the Biden administration’s national security and foreign policy enterprise behind the kinds of investments in our national strength that are the basis for strong inclusive economic growth, competitiveness, and American leadership in the key industries of the future that will sustain and grow the American middle class,' the official said.
'We've been very clear about China and the threat it poses,' the official continued, pointing to the administration's national security and defense strategy. 'China is seen as the greatest geopolitical threat.'
That threat, Gallagher says, is one he views in 'three dimensions' — a military threat, an economic threat and an ideological threat.
With regard to the military threat, Gallagher warned that a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan could 'potentially bring us into kinetic confrontation with China.'
'I believe time is not on our side and that we have entered the window of maximum danger,' Gallagher told Fox News Digital.
Fox News reported last summer that China could invade Taiwan within the next 18 months, according to current and former officials familiar with U.S. and allied intelligence — specifically through amphibious assault and military invasion.
Gallagher said his panel would likely play a 'supporting' role with regard to the military threat, as that topic falls under the jurisdiction of the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and the House Armed Services Committee under Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
With regard to the economy, Gallagher warned that the economic threat 'manifests itself in the nature of critical dependency on China in various areas.' He added: 'Think about the absurdity of that — in many cases, we are relying on China for the things that we put in our weapons systems that we might need in a future war with China.'
Gallagher told Fox News Digital that the U.S. 'needs to ensure that we’re not subsidizing our own destruction.'
As for the ideological threat, Gallagher said this is a 'competition between two very different systems of government.'
Meanwhile, Gallagher touted the Republican members appointed to the panel — all of whom, he said, are 'serious, sober members that represent a wide swath of the caucus and represent almost every committee that affects this issue.'
Democrats have yet to appoint members to the panel, but Gallagher urged them to 'take this seriously.'
'We do not want this to be a Republican-only effort,' he said. 'We want Democrats to participate and we want them to appoint serious, sober members as well.'