Red State Bans ‘Sister City’ Agreements With Adversarial Countries After DCNF Exposes Communist Influence

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Nick Pope Contributor
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Indiana is banning localities and municipalities from entering into cooperative agreements with institutions and governments based in “foreign adversary” countries, including China, following a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.

State lawmakers have passed and enacted House Bill 1120, a bill that includes a provision prohibiting any county, city, town or township in the state from entering into cooperative agreements with any “city, town, province, county, school, college or university located in a foreign adversary,” including China, according to its text and the Indiana Capital Chronicle. The DCNF has previously investigated a nonprofit tied to Chinese influence operations and involved in “sister city” agreements in Indiana.

Currently, there are at least 20 of these sorts of agreements between Chinese institutions or subnational governments and Indiana municipalities, according to the Indiana Capital Chronicle. It is unclear whether House Bill 1120 applies retroactively to existing agreements, though the policy’s advocates say that it does. (RELATED: Gavin Newsom’s China Trip Shines Light On California’s Partnership With ‘Malign’ CCP Influence Operation)

“Sister city agreements are managed by the United Front, the Chinese Communist Party’s overseas influence arm which Xi Xinping called a ‘magic weapon’ for ‘national rejuvenation.’ The CCP pushes sister city agreements to get a foothold here, not to help Indiana,” Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks said of the policy in a statement. “I’m glad that state lawmakers are focused on ridding Communist Party influence from our state, whether that means banning ag land purchases or cooperative agreements with our foremost adversary.”

Banks has previously raised the alarm about the potential dangers of “sister city” agreements and other similar agreements between subnational institutions in China and the U.S., demanding in February that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the Missouri-based United States Heartland China Association (USHCA) for potential violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. A DCNF investigation found that the USHCA — which has a stated mission of “building bridges and promoting opportunities” between U.S. officials and businesses in Midwestern states and China — is linked to numerous individuals with CCP connections and the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a “Chinese intelligence service” focused on running “influence operations,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

USHCA’s board of directors and strategic advisory team features several people who work for UFWD-affiliated groups, and Republican legislators have highlighted USHCA’s interaction with UFWD groups in the past. The organization helped arrange a November 2023 trip to China for numerous midwestern and southern mayors, and the visit led to the signing of a sister city agreement between Carmel, Indiana, and Xiangyang, Hubei, China.

“I know (the agreements) are usually billed as ways to exchange culture and goodwill. And while that may be true for the majority of them, I think that sister-city agreements with countries listed as foreign adversaries deserve a little more scrutiny,” Indiana State Rep. Mitch Gore, a Democrat, told the Indiana Capital Chronicle. “It’s a method by which these countries can exert some soft power and try to influence American policymakers.”

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