Since March, the COVID-19 virus has killed over 200,000 Americans, shutdown thousands of small businesses, and derailed our day-to-day lives. None of this had to happen. For weeks, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lied about human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus. One study concluded that 95% of global cases would have been avoided had the CCP been transparent with the world just three weeks earlier.
In 2020, the CCP has finally been exposed to all Americans for what it really is: the most dangerous economic, technological, political, and military threat to the United States since the Soviet Union. That is why my work on the House of Representatives’ China Task Force (CTF), which was created by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to examine all of these threats and develop strategies to combat the CCP, is among the most consequential work I have done in Congress.
As a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and former Chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Treasury Department’s implementation and enforcement of sanctions, I authored and passed legislation imposing secondary sanctions on Chinese financial institutions for facilitating illicit trade with North Korea. I also led the successful effort to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to strengthen the U.S. government’s review of malign investment by Chinese firms and state owned enterprises (SOEs) in American companies and critical infrastructure, theft of intellectual property and forced transfer of technology.
Each year, the CCP steals between $225 billion and $600 billion from the United States in research, innovation, and other intellectual property (IP). To put that number in perspective, the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of Kentucky in 2018 was $208 billion. This Congress, as Chairman of the China Task Force Subgroup on Economics and Energy as well as the Subgroup on Competitiveness, I continue fighting back against CCP economic piracy.
Much of this theft occurs at American college campuses and universities, where CCP spies pose as students and professors to gain access to valuable research. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a string of indictments against CCP agents targeting universities and attempting to hijack missile and aerospace technology as well as COVID-19 vaccine research.
In response to the CCP attempt to steal COVID-19 research, I introduced the NIST COVID-19 Cyber-Security Act. This bill instructs the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to produce standards and resources for American universities researching COVID-19 in order to mitigate and protect against cyber-attacks. I also recently proposed the Higher Education Research Protection Act of 2020. This legislation establishes an initiative at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and tasks 56 FBI agents — one for each FBI field office in the United States — to investigate CCP espionage efforts at American institutions of higher education. Together, these proposals will create massive roadblocks to Chinese espionage operations and will better protect our critical research from being stolen by the CCP.
Although CCP IP theft targets the American economy, the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) preys on the most vulnerable countries in the developing world. The BRI employs debt-trap diplomacy by offering loans with predatory terms and conditions to developing countries in order to finance infrastructure projects like ports, railways, energy pipelines, and highways. Many of these struggling countries, however, will never be able to repay their loans and for the CCP, that is exactly the point. Instead, these loans are a vehicle to gain political, economic, technological and military influence over the newly indebted countries.
Instead, it is time for the United States to provide developing countries an alternative to the BRI before China ensnares another nation’s economy. As such, I proposed the Countering China Through American Export Competitiveness Act. This bill strengthens the American Export-Import Bank’s newly created Program on China and Transformational Exports, which facilitates loans to international development projects as an alternative to China’s BRI. Currently, a minimum of 20% of the Export-Import Bank’s reserves must be used to compete with China; my legislation increases this set aside to 33%. A core mission of the Export-Import Bank must be thwarting BRI influence around the world by supporting U.S. exporters and our allies.
As the CCP’s malign intentions become clear, we have seen companies with ties to Chinese state industrial policies list on U.S. exchanges in order to benefit from America’s free market economy. In Sept., I introduced the Transparency in Chinese Government Investment Act (TCGIA) of 2020. This bill requires the Securities and Exchange Commission, in consultation with Treasury, to look at whether current U.S. disclosure laws effectively require PRC entities listed on U.S. exchanges to disclose material financial support from the CCP, participation in Chinese government industrial policies, and individuals of its leadership who are members of the CCP or Government of China. If the SEC concludes that these additional disclosures are necessary, then it will issue regulations for issuers to disclose this information.
Other efforts of the Task Force include addressing capital flows and leveling the playing field so that Chinese state-owned enterprises that receive subsidies from the Chinese government don’t get an additional advantage by having unimpeded access to U.S. capital markets. There is proposed legislation looking at 5G telecommunications, how to counter Huawei, building out domestic supercomputing and semiconductor manufacturing to secure communications and make sure that China does not dominate global communications networks in a way that would jeopardize our security. My colleagues have taken a wholesale look at the U.S. supply chain and put forth solutions to reduce our overdependence on China with technology, medicines, and protective medical equipment. We obviously learned the hard way that not only did China expose this virus to the rest of the world, it also then weaponized the supply chain against us. We are prepared to present an extensive list of policy recommendations to both Congress and the executive branch to prepare the United States for a multi-decade strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party.
During my time serving on the CTF, I have been encouraged about the ideas and determination on confronting the CCP. When focused on a goal, our nation can achieve anything. We are the country that engineered the world’s first flight, sent a man to the moon and prevailed in two World Wars. However, the United States must be united to take on this challenge. Democrats originally agreed to participate in the CTF, but backed out days before the launch, according to reporting by Josh Rogin of the Washington Post. America won the Cold War because both political parties were committed to defending our freedoms, civil liberties and capitalist economic principles. We now must unite, Republicans and Democrats, to reengage in a bipartisan commitment to counter this present Communist threat and secure our nation’s future for generation to come.
ANDY BARR is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Kentucky’s 6th district.