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White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the administration's revised approach toward China shouldn't be characterized as a retreat.
The director of the National Economic Council instead characterized the decision to use a committee to determine when Chinese-owned companies should be halted from taking ownership in U.S. firms as simply a "modernization" that will protect U.S. technology.
"The idea of softer or harder is really beside the point," Kudlow told Fox Business Network. "That's really not the intent. We're not driving there."
Kudlow spoke the same day President Donald Trump announced his backing of an overhaul of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CIFIUS. Under rules the House overwhelmingly approved, the committee will have increased authority to block China from moving in on U.S. tech-related companies. The Senate is also likely to approve the measure, called the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act.
The move was seen as at least a mild retreat from leaks that the White House was planning to use authority beyond CIFIUS to stop China from acquiring U.S. technology. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the leaks "bad" and "probably just made up."
Kudlow reiterated that Washington is hoping to resolve its differences with Beijing, but in the meantime will remain vigilant.
"It's not meant to be harder or softer," he said of the approach announced Wednesday. "It's going to be very comprehensive and very effective at protecting our technological family jewels in the United States."
He called the approach "CIFIUS-plus" and an "updated, modernized version."
News of the administration's China approach helped boost stocks in morning trade Wednesday, though they were off their highs after Kudlow spoke.