This won’t come as a surprise to anyone: China’s ultimate strategic goal is becoming the world’s preeminent superpower – economically, militarily, diplomatically and technologically. It’s also no secret that the Chinese government actively works to shape our public opinion. This is just one part of their larger strategy to undermine U.S. national and economic security. But this might surprise you: American companies are deeply entangled in this effort, wittingly and unwittingly.
That’s why my Republican colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee and myself launched an investigation into the extent of China’s malign influence activities against corporate America. The aim of our investigation is to raise public awareness of China’s grip on American corporations, and, more importantly, answer some critical questions.
How are U.S. companies vulnerable to Chinese theft? How does China influence U.S. businesses and to what end? What role does China play in our supply chain and what vulnerabilities does this create? This investigation is ongoing, but one answer is already clear: China is using corporate America to influence our government and public opinion. The preliminary findings confirm many of our fears.
U.S. businesses are being manipulated into sharing key technologies with China. This allows Beijing access to sensitive intellectual property, which benefits China-based firms at the expense of our own industry. This effort is only accelerated by the fact that CCP members serve as board members and senior executives in many U.S. firms. These individuals are in a unique position to advance China’s initiatives in acquiring technology and penetrating U.S. markets.
China is also exploiting U.S. financial services. The CCP is using American investment managers and banks to gain opportunities for strategic investments in U.S. startups, innovative technologies, biosciences, and manufacturing. Tapping into our market not only raises their funds but increases their international credibility. This is largely done through “passive” investments in our big banks, which allows China to hide some of its activities on U.S. markets from our government.
The CCP’s grip on U.S. business gives them political leverage on our own soil, too. China is influencing American industry and financial leaders to pressure local, state, and federal executives and legislators to take actions that benefit Beijing. If their demands aren’t met, they threaten to cancel contracts with U.S. firms and withdraw their access to China’s massive market.
China’s role in the U.S. supply chain also gives them leverage over our national security. Last year, the outbreak of COVID-19 exposed our dependence on China for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. The road to eliminating that dependence is going to be long and difficult, but it’s necessary.
This is not just about China stealing America’s intellectual property, penetrating our markets and exploiting our national security, though. This is a campaign to manipulate the hearts and minds of the American people.
Beijing funds U.S. Confucius Centers, think tanks, and universities to spread its cultural influence. We’re already seeing the disturbing results of this campaign. Nike’s CEO recently stated that they are “a brand of China and for China.” Last month, Hollywood superstar John Cena shamelessly apologized to the CCP, in Mandarin, for calling Taiwan a country. And how many times have we seen the NBA bow to China’s wishes over the past few years?
Our investigation is not a matter of discovering if China is influencing America. It’s a matter of how severely they are manipulating our businesses and culture for their own benefit.
Fortunately, we are already making some progress. The investigation is serving to inform business leaders of China’s malign activities, and I’ve been encouraged by their response to this information. And, since we made our investigation public, general awareness of China’s malicious behavior seems to have increased. But this fight is far from over.
We need the help of our businesses to ensure America remains the world’s leader. And we certainly can’t afford for corporate American to continue aiding China in their mission to become the foremost superpower. If our business leaders don’t open their eyes, recognize the gravity of this situation, and prioritize American interests, we will all suffer the consequences of an ever-empowered Chinese Communist Party.
Chris Stewart represents Utah’s 2nd district in the House of Representatives. He is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.