In recent days, Americans have seen clearly the staggering extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s influence efforts. Americans now know that Chinese agents cultivated relationships with not just former Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., but current House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., whom the CCP strategically approached from the start of his political ascent as a city councilmember.
Americans also now know that the story the corporate and social media did everything possible to kill in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election was no Russian information operation: Hunter Biden is under federal criminal investigation. Part of that investigation reportedly concerns his allegedly illicit business dealings with CCP-linked people and entities. Said dealings might well implicate the “big guy,” his father, Joe Biden.
These stories made the explosive yet plausible remarks of Renmin University School of International Studies Associate Dean Professor Di Dongsheng, recently sent viral by Tucker Carlson, ring all the more true. According to a translation, during a November 2020 panel Di claimed China’s “friends” on Wall Street had influenced American policy since the 1970s through opening American banking to China.
He also said Wall Street’s influence — and by extension, China’s — had waned greatly during the Trump presidency, and that the prospects of China influencing U.S. policy would again likely wax under a Biden presidency, thanks to the Wall Street-tied establishment’s likely resurgence and Hunter’s “business” activities.
Given the alarm bells these stories raise, punctuating China’s history of domestic oppression and international aggression, one would think our elected officials would be doing everything they can to defend the homeland against the interference of rich, strong, and powerful China. These troubling realities should stir the American public to demand action and leadership from their governors.
Are they taking up the charge? Judging by the author’s survey of all 50 governor’s offices across the country, the answer is at best inconclusive and thus highly troubling.
What Are Governors Doing — or Not Doing?
Why should we care what governors are doing to counter the CCP’s malign efforts? National security matters generally fall to the federal government. As the CCP utilizes the likes of Swalwell, Hunter Biden, and Wall Street financiers, however, it becomes clear that the regime’s malevolent efforts persist far outside the corridors of Washington, D.C.
They are comprehensive and systematic. Communist China’s nefarious activities directly intersect with a number of areas over which governors can effect change. Consequently, this author asked the following five questions of every governor:
- What if any specific measures has your office taken to shore up vulnerabilities in the face of the CCP and prevent it from exploiting our freedoms?
- What if any measures is your office taking, or does it intend to take, to ensure that it cannot and will not be compromised by Chinese government-tied individuals, business entities, and organizations?
- What if any measures is your office taking, or does it intend to take, to ensure that the CCP does not exploit strategically significant institutions, public and private, within your state?
- What if any measures is your office taking, or does it intend to take, to ensure that public dollars do not and will not underwrite companies linked to the CCP?
- To the extent your office has not taken any such measures to deter the CCP’s myriad efforts to influence our people, penetrate our institutions, and exploit our commercial and financial dealings, why?
The author gave each governor’s office approximately a week to respond to repeated email inquiries. As of this writing, however, representatives from all but three offices — those of Nebraska, Mississippi, and Arkansas — have not answered.
A spokesman for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office provided a comprehensive response, pointing to a series of efforts demonstrating the Republican’s desire to engage with like-minded allies and partners over Beijing and deter the CCP’s efforts. These include most notably:
- Moving a trade office from China to Germany, and committing not to conduct further trade missions to China — while diversifying the state’s trade relationships through organizing missions to Vietnam and Japan, and hosting delegations including from Taiwan, which bore fruit in agriculture deals totaling $2.1 billion in 2019;
- Barring the use of CCP-influenced app TikTok on state-owned devices;
- Successfully urging the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to close its Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-funded outpost for CCP propaganda; and
- Directing the state’s Department of Administrative Services neither to “procure services from companies linked to the CCP [n]or support investment in CCP affiliated companies,” and to review policies regarding the hiring of foreign nationals for certain state government positions.
The office also flagged a Ricketts speech endorsing President Trump’s China policy and resolved to “ensure that whatever administration holds office next year continues to hold the CCP accountable and fully implement the terms of President Trump’s trade deal.” (In the interest of transparency, this author has previously consulted on projects with Ricketts’s father, Joe.)
A spokesman from the office of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, also a Republican, replied:
Last winter, senior staff within state government were briefed and trained on the ongoing influence campaign from the Chinese Communist Party and how to avoid becoming ensnared in such activities. It is of the utmost importance that federal, state, and local leadership remains vigilant in the face of these sabotage efforts from those foreign actors who oppose America.
A spokesman from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office indicated a response was forthcoming but had not provided it as of the publication date.
The silence from the vast majority of governors across the country should give every American pause. They might be inundated with media inquiries, capacity-constrained given the pandemic, or unwilling to respond to a conservative, but this issue is critical.
Pompeo Says Governors Need to Take Action
This was the message Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered during a February speech to the National Governor’s Association. There Pompeo warned that the “Chinese Government has … assessed our vulnerabilities, and it’s decided to exploit our freedoms to gain advantage over us at the federal level, the state level, and the local level.”
He specifically highlighted CCP-tied state and local-level influence efforts and threats. Some of these are direct operations, such as the aptly named United Front Work Department’s U.S.-based “friendship” organizations’ co-sponsoring confabs with the National Governor’s Association (like the U.S.-China Governors’ Collaboration Summit). Additionally, Chinese diplomats have launched anti-Taiwan pressure campaigns against state legislators.
Pompeo also noted that the CCP has penetrated strategically significant institutions, such as public universities, including in service of its military-civil fusion talent recruitment plans, and propagandizing within them through its Confucius Institutes. The Chinese government has also leveraged commercial and investment opportunities in sensitive areas to its advantage — from the provision of D.C. Metro cars to the companies underwritten by CalPERS.
Pompeo reiterated these points in a September speech to the Wisconsin legislature. There he noted that the CCP “can use subnational entities to circumvent America’s sovereignty,” in service of putting China in, to quote Xi Jinping, “an undefeatable and invincible position.”
Pompeo said Xi “thinks local leaders may well be the weak link.” He detailed efforts of the CCP to push state legislators to pass pro-Chinese government resolutions written by the communist government itself, to threaten states for proposing bills in support of the oppressed Falun Gong, and to target institutions from the New York Police Department to local parent-teacher associations.
All American Leaders Need to Be Tough on China
Pompeo’s tying of the CCP’s influence efforts to China’s hegemonic ambitions links two profound statements from Trump administration officials in recent weeks. On Dec. 3, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe asserted plainly in a Wall Street Journal editorial, “Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically.”
Several weeks prior, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, a key official for the administration’s China policy, suggested “no regime has more riding on its ability to influence the perceptions, policies and priorities of foreign populations than the Chinese Communist Party.”
Such statements are part of the Trump administration’s vital effort to awaken Americans to the CCP’s threat and to counter it. The administration has done so through delivering a series of addresses and executing a slew of associated policies that constitute a comprehensive response to the onslaught the CCP has waged against us.
Given the all-encompassing nature of the CCP’s challenge to the United States, it is only logical that all American leaders should rise to help defend the country. As Pompeo put it, “Protecting American interests requires vigilance. Vigilance starts with … all state legislators,” and continues necessarily with the chief executive of every state. Every governor should want to be on record countering this threat, on the merits and the politics.
With the prospect of a looming Joe Biden presidency, the China challenge will only grow more daunting. A Biden administration would threaten to replace America First with China First. Setting aside the Biden family’s compromising dealings with CCP-linked people and entities — during and after the former vice president’s China-friendly career — early indicators of what a Biden administration China policy would look like are highly disturbing.
If America reverts to a soft-on-China commander-in-chief, who reprises an agenda of CCP integration and appeasement, every other branch of government and sector of society is going to have to marshal its resources to halt the CCP’s march for hegemony.