Published with permission by guest contributors U.S. Ambassador Joseph Cella (2019-2021) and U.S. Ambassador Peter Hoekstra (2018-2021), who previously served as a U.S. Congressman from 1993 to 2011, and as U.S. House Intelligence Chair from 2001-2011.
In our service as ambassadors, we immediately faced how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are grave national security threats to our allies and the U.S. Troublingly, in our home state of Michigan, we are seeing first-hand how the PRC and the CCP are penetrating our shores on a subnational level, beyond the eyes of the U.S. government, with the strong and active support of both Democrats and Republicans.
One year ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee hosted officials from the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), an entity within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to advise and warn a bi-partisan group of state and local officials about the nature, risks, and escalation of PRC and CCP influence operations.
Last Summer, in a first-ever joint appearance, FBI Director Christopher Wray and his MI5 British counterpart Ken McCallum delivered a warning about the grave national security threat to the West from China. Not long after their meeting, the unclassified bulletin from the NCSC was released, warning state and local leaders to guard themselves against PRC operations and refuse to sign agreements that run counter to U.S. national security and economic security, even if they appear to benefit a state or local government in the short term. They further recommended insisting on public and transparent terms for all such agreements and share such engagements with other local leaders and U.S. authorities.
Over the last year, Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) did the opposite, leading Republican and Democrat state legislators, county economic development corporations, and local governments in the pursuit of CATL and Gotion, two PRC-based lithium-ion battery manufacturers who maintain deep ties to the CCP, incentivizing them with over $4 billion in tax dollars from the citizens and business owners of Michigan. The subnational incursion presently happening in Michigan is unconscionable and both a harbinger and a cautionary tale for the other 49 states in the Union.
How can Michigan politicians in Lansing be so far out of sync with our national security and intelligence officials in Washington? Republicans and Democrats are not only welcoming the presence of PRC-based companies with ties to the CCP into our state, but they are inducing these companies to come to Michigan with lucrative financial incentives!
Exemplary bi-partisanship is seen through the work of Senators Rubio and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who are vigorously opposing the CCP’s role in US vehicle production and sourcing. We applaud them for speaking forcefully against CCP-tied companies from participating in building electrical vehicles, intertwining themselves with our supply chain in the US, and receiving federal tax credits. Model bipartisanship is being demonstrated with the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party led by Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). In a bitterly divided Congress, the American people should notice.
Unfortunately, Governor Whitmer and her supportive cohorts have paid more attention to binding five-year non-disclosure agreements and secretive code words for the projects. Worse yet, they have turned a blind eye to any national security threat from these PRC-based companies, rushing the process, and sweetening the deal with separate pork barrel projects for legislators, rather than conducting strict scrutiny and due diligence by petitioning for a voluntary review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) through the Department of Treasury.
Do Michigan taxpayers really want to send money to a country that violates human rights, performs human organ harvesting, embeds people in our universities to copy and send home research, or who steals our technology, manipulates their currency, and spies on our military installations? We don’t think so. But by the aggressive lobbying of Governor Whitmer and votes of Democrats and Republicans, they have a bi-partisan consensus totally out of step with the clear and present threat of these times, putting the PRC ahead of Michigan.
The good news is that even with the snow job and skid greasing laid down by the powers that be in Michigan, citizens in the communities where these projects are proposed know something is wrong and are revolting. The public gets it. Politicians and most of the media do not.
According to a recent Trafalgar Group poll conducted for the New American Majority Project, 50% of Americans believe China is America’s most serious threat, and 76% think the U.S. should put a freeze on any construction on or deliveries to/from Chinese-owned property near U.S. military installations.
It is imperative governors, legislatures, local officials, private sector leaders, and county economic development corporations in all other states, learn about the nature of the threats presented by the PRC and the CCP, spot vulnerabilities in their states, set out aggressively to confront such subnational incursions, and not leave themselves vulnerable as Democrat and Republican Michigan leaders did to our state.
NOTE from the editor: Ford Motor Company plans to build their EV battery company in partnership with CATL in Marshall, MI, and Gotion plans to build their lithium-ion battery plant in Big Rapids, MI.