A battle is brewing between Beijing and Washington. This one is not as transparent as the 2019 “trade war” orchestrated by The Trump White House and thrives behind cordial talks between President Biden and Prime Minister Xi, but it is nonetheless fierce to because of that.

On one side in this fight is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and the United States Congress, on both sides of the island. On the other side are the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee and China’s Ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang. The problem is Senator Schumer’s massive United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). China claims it is a club with which to beat China in trade, technology and cybersecurity attacks, among others. The good senator agrees but says China has earned it with its unfair and dishonest trade practices. China has made it clear that it will retaliate if this bill becomes law.

Senator Schumer’s bill reflects the anti-Chinese sentiment widely felt in Congress. It brings together under its umbrella several smaller bills that have already been introduced, including the Endless Frontiers Act, initially proposed by Republican Todd Young of Indiana, and the Meeting the Chinese Challenge Act, initially proposed by Democrat. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Schumer’s massive bill (2,276 pages) has already passed the Senate but is still awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

The composite bill, unsurprisingly, has a wide variety of provisions. Among them, he would insist on “buying American” in any deal financed by Washington. It would ban, as far as legally possible, the purchase of drones and electric vehicles made in China and ban any government server from connecting to a Chinese social network. It would include measures to thwart cybersecurity attacks against any US government agency and mandatory sanctions in response to any Chinese cybersecurity attack as well as any theft of state-sponsored intellectual property or technology. It is estimated that it will affect some $ 250 billion in trade and economic activities.

The bill has outraged Beijing, although many of its provisions mimic how China is packing for its economy and trade with the rest of the world. The National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee described USICA as an attempt to “contain China’s development under the banner of innovation and competition.” While Beijing has yet to disclose how it would retaliate, there is no doubt, given Beijing’s actions in the past, that it would hesitate to do so. Tariffs, however, are unlikely. After the tensions faced by China during the 2019 “trade war” with Trump’s White House, the last thing Beijing wants is to move things in that direction. And given the hard line taken by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai during her recent talks with Deputy Prime Minister Liu He, Beijing knows Washington could take that path again. China’s Hands suspect that retaliation would likely target exports of parts needed by domestic US manufacturers.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington has been particularly active in this matter. Ambassador Qin Gang expressed his indignation and that of his government. He has identified some 260 bills in Congress which he describes as having “negative content on China.” He summed them up, calling USICA an attempt to “hijack China-US relations and seriously harm America’s own interests.” He also mobilized his staff to pressure all major US companies (implicitly threatening those that already have interests in China) to reject Senator Schumer’s bill and similar pieces of legislation.

All of this anxiety can go nowhere. The bill is still awaiting a vote in the House, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to say when or even if such a vote will take place. Congress has a lot of work to do, so this issue may wait a long time to gain its attention much less that of President Biden. Indeed, if he were to pass the House and arrive at the President’s office, there is no guarantee that he will sign it into law. He has spoken harshly to China at times, but his wide array of provisions could easily run counter to initiatives by the administration or key cabinet secretaries. Still, it looks like Congress has the proverbial bit in its teeth when it comes to China, and with the midterm elections looming in 2022, all will be taking note of the public’s anti-China sentiment.