WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has pledged to take a tougher stance toward China’s purchases of American know-how in its quest to compete more forcefully with the United States.
So few people expected that, during Mr. Trump’s visit to Beijing last week, a major Wall Street bank would announce it had teamed up with an arm of the Chinese government to make up to $5 billion in deals in the United States.
That deal — between Goldman Sachs and China’s sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corporation — illustrates the deep divisions in Washington over China’s trade and investment practices, as well as the complexities of policing the flow of Chinese money into the United States.
On Wednesday, a week after some Trump administration officials praised the deal as one of many that would help American businesses, a congressional commission recommended that lawmakers consider prohibiting entirely the acquisition of United States assets by Chinese state-owned entities — a move that could stop buyers like C.I.C. from reaching major American deals.
“I don’t think any of us expected that easing the way for China to participate in the acquisition of U.S. companies was going to be part of the president’s plans,” said Michael R. Wessel, a member of that group, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “It seems directly counter to the policies he was promoting and, quite frankly, the interests we have.”
The commission, which is charged by Congress with monitoring the security implications of trade with China, released a more than 600-page report Wednesday criticizing activities by Chinese entities in the United States.
The deal has also raised eyebrows among some lawmakers critical of China’s purchases.
“Business leaders, such as Goldman Sachs, should continue to try and bring foreign investment and economic expansion into the country,” said Representative Robert Pittenger, Republican of North Carolina. Mr. Pittenger has proposed legislation that would broaden the scope of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the agency, known as Cfius, that scrutinizes foreign purchases of American assets.
“We need a strong Cfius review process to ensure that we’re not inadvertently strengthening the Chinese military and jeopardizing our national security in the process,” Mr. Pittenger said.
has long invested in the United States, and a Goldman Sachs spokesman emphasized that the fund would focus on nonsensitive industries that are not subject to Cfius review.
The $5 billion deal was among a package of more $250 billion in business pacts that the Trump administration announced last week during Mr. Trump’s visit with President Xi Jinping of China. Most of the deals lacked details or represented already existing business. Still, they showed how important China has become to many companies in the United States.
“The billions of dollars in deals signed between private U.S. businesses and Chinese entities last week carry the promise of thousands of new jobs for hardworking Americans,” said Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary for the White House. “Each of them will go through all applicable review processes.”
Since 2000, Chinese companies have announced $136.5 billion in investments in the United States, with $26.4 billion of that coming in just the first three quarters of 2017, according to tracking by the Rhodium Group, a research firm. Much of that funding has flowed into manufacturing — including of automobiles, medical devices and industrial machinery — in the Midwest and southern United States.
That makes Chinese money a complicated subject.
Wilbur L. Ross, the commerce secretary, and Terry Branstad, the United States ambassador to China, included the Goldman Sachs-C.I.C. deal in the hastily arranged package of China agreements last week in part to show the Trump Administration was helping American businesses make money there.
But some top advisers within the administration were unhappy about the Goldman deal, seeing it as a jarring contradiction to the White House’s efforts to take a tougher stance toward China, according to two trade advisers, who asked to speak anonymously because they were not authorized to comment on the White House’s behalf.
Those deals came just one day after Rep. Pittenger and lawmakers in Washington proposed the expansion of reviews that the United States carries out on foreign investments.
Several companies protested that proposed legislation as too restrictive. In a letter to Mr. Pittenger’s office, IBM — whose China partnerships have faced scrutiny before — said the bill would bring licensing, joint development and other transactions under government regulation, and that a change to Cfius would limit “the ability of American firms to do business abroad while empowering foreign competitors to capture global markets.”
Goldman Sachs said in a statement that the fund “is designed to enhance commercial linkages and promote market access for U.S. firms in China and will seek to improve the balance of the U.S.-China trade relationship.”
Carolyn Bartholomew, the chairwoman of the congressional commission on China, was more skeptical.
“I think it’s important to remember that what this is about is making money for Goldman Sachs,” she said. “Any other way they’re characterizing it is just icing on the cake.”