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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., has proposed two amendments to the upcoming NASA funding legislation that would require companies that wish to compete for NASA contracts to pass, in essence, a background check to ensure they are not compromised by China. By no stretch of the imagination should these amendments be considered controversial.
China is a serial thief of U.S. technology. It has a long history of extorting U.S. companies by forcing them to turn over methods, materials and marketing secrets as a condition of entering China’s market of 1.3 billion people. These state-sanctioned thefts require U.S. firms to name Chinese to their boards and management teams, who then can take what they learn to compete against the American firms with lower raw material costs because of Chinese-only purchasing rules.
China also has a long history of spying in the United States. In just the past few weeks, the U.S. government has closed a Chinese consulate in Houston, banned TikTok, a popular social media app, and forced U.S. universities to close their Confucius Institutes, funded by the Chinese to install spies on U.S. campuses, and to return the money.
We’re also fighting a space race with the Chinese right now, and NASA and our new Space Force lead the charge. So, amendments that say American firms must prove they are not involved with the Chinese and do not turn over American technology to Chinese firms would seem like common sense.
Yes, there are some firms that would like to avoid this. Blue Origin, a satellite firm owned by Jeff Bezos, could be endangered because of Amazon’s ties to China. SpaceX, which makes and launches rockets, is owned primarily by Elon Musk. He builds cars with $1.4 billion in credit from Chinese state-owned banks and in partnership with Tencent, a Chinese internet company that’s been accused of sharing data with the Chinese. He says they are also “adviser
The Gardner amendments won’t hurt American industry. These companies are deep-pocketed and well positioned to make the adjustments and provide the security assurance Gardner’s amendments require.
So maybe the mystery as to why these amendments have drawn opposition can be solved by looking at their source. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who herself was spied on for more than two decades by a man who worked as her driver and a gofer in her San Francisco office, opposes Gardner’s amendments. She says they “could disrupt and unfairly disadvantage certain U.S. companies in the space sector.”
To Feinstein, China always has been more than a geopolitical competitor. After the U.S. normalized relations with China in 1972, Feinstein was one of the first mayors to set up sister-city agreements with Chinese communities. She linked San Francisco, where she was mayor at the time, to Shanghai, whose mayor then happened to be Jiang Zemin, later president of China.
They became fast friends – Zemin spent a Thanksgiving at Feinstein’s house in San Francisco and even danced with her in the evening – and the relationship between Zemin and her investor husband, Richard Blum, grew significantly.
She worked with Zemin to establish corporate partnerships, to eliminate the link between most-favored-nation status, which the Chinese coveted so they could join the World Trade Organization, and China’s serial human rights abuses. Zemin helped Blum raise $150 million for an Asia-focused fund for his venture capital firm, Newbridge Capital.
The firm would go on to invest more than $400 million in China, including in ventures such as Northwest Airlines, then the only airline with direct flights to all major Chinese cities, and the Shenzhen Development Bank, the first time the Chinese would allow an American firm to take control of such a group.
She blocked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, from moving to rename a Washington, D.C. street for Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel-winning human rights activist jailed for speaking out against the regime. She blocked the bill twice, and Xiaobo died in custody. She forced the Obama administration to abandon a $6 billion arms deal with Taiwan. In the early 1980s, she also got the organizers of the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco to stop displaying Taiwan’s flag. She even worked to get meetings for Chinese officials so they could explain the missile tests they performed near Taiwan to frighten the island nation.
Feinstein also was heavily involved in the scandal in which John Huang, a Chinese businessman, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws by contributing the campaigns of Bill Clinton and other top Democrats to curry favor on other matters. Feinstein had to return a $12,000 contribution as a result of the investigation.
Given her history, it’s not hard to see why Feinstein considers Gardner’s amendments “disruptive” and sales of military hardware to Taiwan as “an irritant.” For decades now, she has seemed more interested in integrating China into the American commercial sector than addressing its multitude of security threats.
Perhaps, given her connections to China’s Communist Party, she can’t afford to let these amendments go forward without a fight. Americans can’t afford not to.
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