Congress tries to shut off China’s corporate money spigot
A recent Wall Street Journal report notes that lawmakers are acting to resolve entrepreneur Elon Musk’s business ties to China, which they fear may include the People’s Republic of China connections to SpaceX. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) wants to hold confidential briefings on Capitol Hill to assess the severity of the situation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation aimed at rectifying the problem, telling the newspaper that “any company operating in China is going to be pressured and exploited by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
Musk drew criticism early this year for showcasing his new Tesla showroom in Xinjiang, where China keeps millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps. Only weeks earlier, President Biden had signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, to restrict U.S. imports from the region.
Musk may take the brunt of the heat for doing business with the largest communist state, but this problem is not exclusive to the world’s richest man. Plenty of U.S.-based businesses and businessmen have cozied up to China’s genocidal regime. AMC, Smithfield Foods, GE Appliances and Motorola Mobility, among others, are or have been owned or controlled by Chinese companies.
The problem, of course, is that all Chinese entities are legally obligated to spy for their government, a practice codified in China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017. This may be hard for some Americans to imagine, but it is not insignificant.
Consider, for example, West Taiwan’s Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) policy, which has been dissolving the barriers between China’s civilian research and military-industrial sectors as part of China’s goal to build a world-class military by 2049. Chinese leader Xi Jinping personally oversees the MCF, ensuring that organizations throughout the business and academic realms across the globe gather and conduct research — with the ultimate goal of boosting China’s military power.
China doesn’t just want a powerful military that looks good in parades — it wants to supersede the U.S. as the regional and global superpower, as the U.S. intelligence community has warned for several years. Perceiving this as a genuine threat isn’t a matter of jingoism and xenophobia. If you value freedom, allowing China’s dominance of the continent or the world is an outcome to be avoided. The U.S. may not be considered the freest country in the world, but it’s significantly better than China by several measures. In fact, the Orwellian-named People’s Republic of China is among the least-free countries.
China is not content merely to maintain its strategic position and exert totalitarian control of its populace. For several years, the Chinese military has been building and occupying strategic islands in disputed waters of the South China Sea, causing territorial disputes with the Philippines and Japan. These islands will cement communist power over important resources and shipping lanes. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has entangled much of Asia, Europe and Africa with its mighty economic influence. Resource-rich Africa has been a particular target of Chinese development for decades, and China is now Africa’s biggest trade partner. China is the number one trade partner of South America as well.
But this is not simply about trade. China sees all activities — political, economic, military and otherwise — as related means to the same end. Whether China is building roads in Africa or testing Taiwan’s air defenses, the goal is the same: total domination.
Allowing Communist China to dominate the region — or the globe — would be catastrophic. Businesses should look beyond their quarterly earnings reports to the long-term picture. Getting close to China will ultimately help China reach its goal of pushing aside the United States to dominate the world and allowing that to happen will make it harder to do business, to put it mildly. China’s deep pockets might be helpful to countries and businesses in the short term, but long-term financial and moral obligations require that democratic nations interested in preserving the liberal world order and rule of law must avoid strong ties to the communist regime.
Congress appears to be taking the problem seriously and is bringing attention to a critical, widespread issue. However, government solutions tend to take time to implement. As Reuters reported in November, China has been lobbying U.S. businesses to fight China-related bills in Congress. Americans should not wait for congressional solutions to be fully executed. They should begin doing the right thing now by avoiding the empowerment of enemies of freedom.
Jianli Yang, a former political prisoner of China and a Tiananmen Square Massacre survivor, is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and the author of “For Us, The Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth.”
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