Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping did not mention the United States during the CCP's 20th National Congress this week. But his message was clear: Beijing will double down in the face of Western threats, including those concerning Taiwan.
"We are not committed to abandoning the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures," Xi said, slamming the "serious provocations of external forces interfering in Taiwan."
The U.S. Congress is considering the Taiwan Policy Act, a bill aimed at boosting the military capability of the self-governed island, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, against a potential Chinese invasion.
Xi's address and the CCP congress' report contained stark warnings that China is facing growing external threats and entering a period "in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent."
As the CCP congress cements a more assertive foreign policy under Xi, who will remain in power for an extraordinary third term, the country is on a collision course with a Biden administration that would be pressed to be even tougher on China should Republicans win more congressional seats in the November midterm elections.
"For 50 years, the Chinese Communist Party has launched an assault on the American way of life, on our economy, on our jobs, on our companies, on our culture, on our institutions, on our very future," Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters in September.
If Republicans win a majority of seats in the House, McCarthy will likely become the speaker.
Representative Michael McCaul, who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee China Task Force, has vowed that if Republicans retake control, they will prepare the U.S. to win its great power competition against China through tougher legislation, including on export controls.
"My priority will be to stop exporting these technologies and selling these technologies to China so they can build their own war machine that will then in turn be pointed at us," he said at the same press conference.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced aggressive measures limiting exports of advanced U.S. semiconductor technology to China, saying that the technology is supporting Beijing's military modernization.
Beyond Taiwan, various Republican lawmakers have promised more focus on China — and a tougher U.S. stance on issues from securing supply chains to investigating the origins of the coronavirus — to make their point that President Joe Biden is soft on Beijing.
But even if Democrats retain their slim majority in Congress, Biden's China policy will likely remain hawkish, keeping in place many of the policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, including steep tariffs on Chinese goods and containing Beijing's influence in the Indo-Pacific.
"Under the Trump administration, the Chinese genuinely hoped that the Democrats would win. But after almost two years of the Biden administration, I think the Chinese have come to the realization that both are not going to change the consensus on China," said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center.
"And some in China would even argue that Biden's policy is even more difficult for China because of how Biden aligns his position and mobilizes allies and partners to jointly counter China's growing influence," Yun told VOA.
Should Republicans retake Congress, Yun said, there will be more skepticism of Biden's compartmentalized approach of competing strategically with China while cooperating on transnational challenges such as climate change and pandemic prevention.
The approach is problematic, she said, because Beijing views its relationship with Washington as transactional; to secure China's cooperation, the U.S. must concede on issues it sees as competitive because for Beijing, "everything is linked to everything else."
From Beijing's point of view, whatever happens in U.S. politics in the foreseeable future, there are no good outcomes, she said.
"Regardless of who wins in this midterm election, or regardless of who wins in the next presidential election in 2024, this China policy is here to stay."