There is a wide, bipartisan consensus that TikTok is effectively Chinese Communist Party spyware, which makes it an easy target for legislators and the Biden administration to ban. Keeping China away from American data, however, could easily become an excuse for the ruling class to claim they are successfully warding off infiltration from a foreign adversary without truly addressing all of the ways China has compromised our nation.
The Biden administration, Congress, states, and agencies such as the FBI agree communist China poses a grave threat to U.S. security. Action to combat these concerns in recent years, however, has largely revolved around the CCP’s weaponization of TikTok.
To put it simply, U.S. attempts to combat China’s vast infiltration campaign by simply banning TikTok is the easy out. The CCP has a grip on Americans and has stealthily tightened that grip for years. Here are other important ways communist China has embedded itself in U.S. institutions.
The Biden Family Business
The family business of President Joe Biden is sustained by overseas dealings with foreign actors including those linked to communist China. Hunter Biden and his uncle James Biden were funneled millions of dollars from companies directly influenced by the CCP to offer the “spy chief of China” legal representation. Two weeks after he traveled to communist China on his dad’s Air Force Two jet, Hunter also helped his Chinese business partners secure a deal that gave them control of a cobalt mine in Congo.
Just last year, the president sold oil from emergency reserves to the same Chinese gas giant that Hunter’s private equity firm, BHR Partners, once owned a $1.7 billion stake in.
Even if Joe wasn’t guilty of helping out his nation’s No. 1 adversary, his relationship with Hunter and the access his son acquired through his father’s status makes him guilty by proxy. Joe is susceptible to sway from Hunter’s foreign buddies including those closely linked to the CCP.
Congress is littered with legislators who are compromised by China. Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell formed a close relationship with a Chinese spy who spent years building connections with Democrats so she could send political intelligence and personal information back to communist China. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao similarly spent decades getting rich off of the Chao family’s maritime shipping company, which has deep ties to the Chinese government.
In July 2022, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee revealed CCP officials compromised a Federal Reserve employee’s IT equipment and WeChat account. Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident. Dozens of state and local governments have also fallen prey to the clutches of CCP spy campaigns.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have raised alarms and proposed bills to stop foreign adversaries such as China from buying up U.S. territory. So far, however, those efforts have not stopped the CCP’s encroachment.
As of 2021, China owns 384,000 acres of American farmland, much of it located near U.S. military bases and other critical infrastructure, and is only increasing its control each year. Between 2009 and 2016, China’s foreign land investments grew from $300 million to $3.3 billion. In 2021, Chinese investors often linked to the CCP acquired 98 percent more U.S. land than they did between 2015 and 2019.
U.S. officials know China purchases land with malicious intent. For example, in 2017, U.S. officials uncovered CCP plans to “plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.”
China has surveilled the U.S. using spy balloons for years. Most recently, a CCP balloon equipped with “multiple antennas” for “intelligence surveillance” completed a days-long cross-country journey above some of the nation’s most sensitive locations. It was only after that journey ended that the Biden administration opted to shoot it down.
As House Republicans and witnesses demonstrated during a Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions hearing last week, the CCP is invested in increasing the presence of fentanyl in the U.S. because it destabilizes the nation and kills tens of thousands of Americans yearly.
China does this by selling and exporting the precursor chemicals required to make potent and lucrative opioids to cartels that then bring the deadly drug across the southern U.S. border. In 2022, Customs and Border Protection seized 14,700 pounds of fentanyl. That’s triple the amount it seized in 2020 and doesn’t account for the fentanyl that was not detected by border agents.
Speaking of precursor chemicals, the U.S. relies on China, the world’s largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients, for everyday generic drugs and medical equipment. A report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in 2019 found that the Chinese government wants to exploit that dependency and become the world’s biggest producer of pharmaceutical products.
China’s hostility further manifested in 2020 when a CCP propaganda outlet suggested the Beijing government might cut off its drug and equipment supply to Americans so the U.S. would “sink into the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.”
One of the most well-documented ways China infiltrates the U.S. is through academia and Confucius Institutes. These organizations, often disguised as cultural programs, are designed to expand China’s influence and allies abroad.
Instead of fighting against this part of China’s soft power campaign, the Biden administration stealthily eliminated a Trump-era proposal that required educational institutions to disclose their relationship with Confucius Institutes. Biden’s decision allowed Beijing to reopen dozens of its infiltration hubs under different names.
The administration has also largely ignored the role Chinese state actors play in exploiting the vulnerabilities in U.S. higher education. Students from China are often advised by Chinese embassies or working for China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Since 2013, the Chinese government also has been “the largest source of foreign donations to U.S. universities,” and since 2011, Chinese sources “have participated in donations or contracts worth more than $426 million to U.S. universities.”
Because of its successful infiltration into higher education, China places spies in front-row seats to some of our nation’s most promising technology and innovation. The CCP’s desire to beat Americans’ grip on the global economy, and its access to the U.S. institutions developing useful tools, resulted in the theft of dozens of trade, military, engineering, and intelligence secrets.
The Department of Justice estimates that “80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions” it brings “would benefit the Chinese state.”
It’s no secret China pays the National Basketball Association in return for American basketball coaches and players’ silence on the communist government’s human rights violations.
In recent years, China successfully convinced NBA officials to shut up employees and hamper players’ freedom to speak out on issues including the Hong Kong protests and Uyghur genocide.
China’s grip on the association is so tight that even the NBA coaches who host basketball camps in the communist country admitted the CCP’s influence meant they were essentially “working for the Chinese government.”
China is responsible for “70 to 80 percent of the world’s battery chemicals, battery anodes and battery cells” which means it essentially controls the electric vehicle supply chain. As the Biden administration and its Democrat allies push toward requiring Americans to use electric cars over gas-powered ones, China’s grip on the global battery market will only tighten.
Similarly, the communist country’s monopoly on rare earth minerals and metals means the CCP controls not just the materials required for “green technology” but also “modern-day weapons systems.”
For years now, the CCP has used willing Wall Street firms to leverage its financial influence within the U.S. and around the world. This collusion not only sustains the human rights violator but also compromises “tens of millions of unwitting American investors in the process.” U.S. firms build woke capital on the back of the CCP which, in turn, gets billions of American dollars.
Other Big Tech Companies
As author Peter Schweizer documented in his book “Red-Handed,” China has “courted and seduced many powerful people in America’s tech industry to willingly, and sometimes enthusiastically” advance the communist country’s goal of technological supremacy.
Facebook, Google, Apple, and Elon Musk’s Tesla all cater to the CCP’s wishes.
Despite its extensively reported penchant for wokeness, Hollywood is all too willing to censor its productions to stay in the good graces of communist China to preserve overseas profits. The CCP’s ability to control what hits screens is just another way China exports its authoritarian ideology to the world.
China not only runs propaganda but also employs the help of American corporate media outlets such as The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, and Bloomberg, which have built cozy relationships with Chinese officials.
The compromising nature of these ties became especially prominent beginning in 2020 when the propaganda press helped the CCP spread lies about the origins of Covid-19.
Pretty much every major U.S. institution is ripe for reforms that would root out foreign influences like China. If the U.S. government is serious about combatting China’s sway, a ban on TikTok should signal the beginning, not the end, of a war on China’s infiltration of American systems.