My former CIA colleague Rep. Will Hurd, Texas Republican, recently issued a compelling warning about GH America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese Guanghui Industry Investment Group, which purchased more than 100,000 acres in Val Verde County, Texas:
“A company owned by a member of the Chinese Communist Party — Guanghui Energy Company — may gain access to our power grid through a large wind farm in the Devil’s River Area of West Texas, and the federal government is not moving fast enough to prevent it, and the state government lacks the power to stop it.”
Mr. Hurd was right to be ringing alarm bells about China’s threat to Texas’ critical infrastructure. China would have the capability to overload the electrical grid and cause outages. In February, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, visited nearby Laughlin Air Force Base, which is also in China’s crosshairs.
The enemy is not at the gates but has gained entry inside them, albeit through a Trojan horse real estate acquisition rather than a kinetic attack.
China has used this modus operandi before. In 2012, citing national security concerns, the Obama administration blocked a Chinese-owned firm from purchasing a wind farm close to a naval test facility in Oregon.
Guanghui Co. is located in Xinjiang, notorious for its so-called “reeducation” camps, where China detains Uighur Muslims against their will and violates their human rights. Sun Guangxin, the founder and director of Guanghui Co., served in China’s People’s Liberation Army, where he saw action in Vietnam, before becoming a businessman. Guanghui is a massive conglomerate with diverse holdings in real estate, liquefied natural gas, transportation and chemicals.
Mr. Sun, whose net worth is estimated at $2 billion is Xi Jinping’s stalking horse, dispatched to exploit Texas’ dearth of regulations and bureaucracy especially related to purchasing property. For more than 20 years, Texas has encouraged its utilities companies to use more renewable power.
China’s 2015 National Intelligence Law gave the Communist Party of China sweeping powers to exploit Chinese domestic and overseas companies: “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and keep its secrets known to the public. The State protects individuals and organizations that support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence work.”
Incorporated in Houston in 2015, GH America would use the cover of a windmill farm renewable energy business venture to spy on behalf of China’s ruthless dictatorship.
GH America reflects the strategy of Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu, according to whom, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Espionage has been a critically important tool, on which Mr. Xi has relied to implement China’s bellicose foreign policies, including military aggression and economic predation. China is flooding the zone in our homeland, by deploying its students to target U.S. academic institutions; businessmen to infiltrate the U.S. high technology sector; and intelligence officers to penetrate intelligence agencies, including the CIA and DIA.
During a speech at the Hudson Institute in July 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray emphasized the FBI opens a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours because China is doing all it can to “exploit the openness” of our system.
The Trump administration’s decision to close China’s Houston consulate was a critical step forward both in disrupting and drawing attention to China’s spying in the homeland. But as the GH America case demonstrates, we need to do more to counter, defend and deter China — specifically three immediate measures:
First, the intelligence community needs to increase collection on front companies operating in the United States on behalf of our adversaries, especially China, and share it immediately with state and local governments in duty to warn format.
Second, Congress should write more expansive legislation to protect our critical infrastructure, including real estate from criteria countries like China. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), created in 1975 and updated with the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) in 2018 is not sufficient.
Third, China has made the control over foreign real estate a central tool in its increasingly aggressive and diverse arsenal. In 2021, China will start operating Israel’s Haifa port, where the United States docks its Sixth Fleet. A victim of China’s debt trap diplomacy, Sri Lanka gave China its Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease.
GH America might be the canary in our coal mine, but we need to work with our allies and partners to build a global strategy to counter China’s guileful and menacing geographic expansion.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the CIA. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.