The global coronavirus pandemic revealed a key strategic weakness for our country: Much of our supply of medical equipment and medicine, including 97 percent of our antibiotics, is reliant on China.
We also witnessed the lack of accountability of the Chinese Communist government in refusing transparency about the virus, and the Chinese government also held up exports of masks after we foolishly allowed so much of that production to be in the hands of Communist-controlled manufacturers.
China is considered by national security experts to be the most serious threat to America in the 21st century. As Americans consider this challenge, we should start by understanding that Chinese influence in America is far more pervasive than most realize. If we put the pieces of the puzzle together, it’s a scary picture.
A recent congressional report found that Chinese telecom companies have been operating with little oversight in the United States for the past 20 years. This free reign has allowed these Communist Party-controlled companies to collect personal data on Americans.
By 2016, the Chinese had control of the largest movie theater company with over 8,000 screens in America. The Chinese control Legendary Entertainment, a major production company. This gives China leverage to dictate scripts to Hollywood if they want to have their films screened.
The Chinese don’t just own a major stake in media companies. Chinese companies and investors own about 2,400 American companies, many in key sectors including aerospace, energy, healthcare and technology.
Chinese influence in academia is also coming to light. More than 100 universities have hosted Confucius Institutes, which are funded by the Chinese government, receiving a declared $30 million between 2014 and 2020.
Authorities are also discovering that much of the Chinese money at universities has been undeclared. A federal investigation found a number of universities failing to report donations from Chinese sources of almost $100 million. Meanwhile, several professors, including the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department, have recently been indicted for failing to report taking money from Chinese sources.
According to the National Institutes of Health, which opened an investigation into federal grantees receiving money from foreign sources, 54 scientists have resigned or been fired for failing to disclose foreign ties. In 93 percent of cases, the hidden funding came from China.
What does the Chinese Communist government want? Information leading to total power.
At home, it surveils and suppresses advocates of democracy in Hong Kong. It puts dissidents in reeducation facilities. The government controls the media. Websites including Twitter and YouTube are banned.
Externally, the Chinese Communist Party needs technical information resources to feed its expansionist goals, both militarily and economically. The Chinese government has launched a “Made in China 2025” strategy to seize dominance in aerospace, robotics, IT, power and other sectors.
One way forward is to pay U.S. researchers for information. Companies that do business in China are subject to forced technology transfers. Another method utilized by China has been to steal intellectual property — a crime that has been occurring for decades with little change.
And as China expands, it wants to control the image that Americans see, much as it controls perceptions with its own citizens. The Chinese government-linked China Daily has spent millions paying for advertorials, dressed up to look like legitimate news stories, in major national newspapers.
Both Republicans and Democrats have shown concern about China, particularly the country’s human rights violations. A resolution condemning China’s abuses of Uighur minorities recently passed the House by a vote of 413-1. But it’s clear much more needs to be addressed, including our overall China strategy.
The philosophy in the past has been to let China in the door, in hopes that bringing the government into the global community will help liberalize the country. China has instead shown that it is willing to lie, cheat, and steal while abusing that generosity.
In the light of day, we need sober consideration of China’s response to the coronavirus.
Their denial of transparency and attempt to manipulate the World Health Organization is a preview of many tussles to come coincident with their growth in influence. We can no longer dither in securing our interests.
We need to repatriate as much of our supply chain as possible from Chinese control while weeding out their stealth influence in America.