- - Monday, December 14, 2020

The news that a Chinese spy targeted U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell and two mayors was an embarrassing revelation. The story is yet another warning sign about the threat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to Americans. Among their strategies, they play the long game of secretly funding junior politicians looking to gain higher office. 

Why else target city council members with money and the light touch of attractive women? The larger question is how many similar situations have yet to be surfaced.

The CCP bets on every horse in many races in order to continually cash winning tickets. What’s different with China compared to other adversaries is the scope of its influence and espionage capabilities. China Owns Us, a campaign I run, weaves together this bigger picture in a white paper that was published this spring. And it’s grim.  

The CCP has been buying or leasing radio stations to keep millions of Chinese residents in our country plugged into the news as curated by Beijing. They are controlling movie scripts and theaters through the purchases of major companies. Their huge movie going domestic market means that a commercially viable picture produced in Hollywood  better kowtow to the Communist Party’s Film Group Corporation.

It’s now becoming well known that the CCP is funding major university programs for espionage and Chinese government-funded influence. They have purchased 2,000 U.S. companies (including those in sensitive areas like aerospace) to gain obvious footholds in technology or influence (hence the culture forming opportunity through movies). And according to a new leak, major corporations including Boeing and Pfizer were found to employ over 100 CCP members.



We also have critical supply chains tied up in China. Ninety-seven percent of our antibiotics come from China. China supplies 80 percent of rare earth minerals, which are necessary for the function of smartphones, military hardware, and other modern technology. The U.S. doesn’t have any such mines open.

Few people realize the bigger picture. Few know that the CCP has a “Made in China 2025” initiative to dominate 10 key technologies from artificial intelligence and agriculture technology, to bio-medicines within the next four years. 

Gallup indicates 70 percent of the public has a negative opinion of China. But it’s a general discomfort. They don’t fully appreciate the degree to which we are being played. This is the right time for leadership in Washington to step up. It’s not a partisan issue. It should be aired on MSNBC and CNN, as well as Fox.

“Congress” and “leadership” is often a different way of saying oil and water. But imagine if every Representative and Senator held town halls with their constituents to elevate public perception of the Chinese Communist threat.

Despite the PAC money, they should break from the hired guns who are flaking for China in Washington D.C. According to foreign agent registration filings, there are some major P.R. and lobby shops that are on the take for millions from Chinese interests.

Members of Congress must explain and echo the need to accept disruption and higher costs as a required price to pay for our regaining American independence. A senior member of the Chinese Communist Party recently signaled the threat to cut back our supply of critical medicines produced in their country if we become too aggressive. How many warnings do we need?  

John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence recently remarked that China “poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War II.” But the average American doesn’t-yet-understand this. And until all of American leadership steps up to the policies and communications challenge, we will be woefully unprepared for what comes next.

We don’t have much time. China has already gained infrastructure footholds in other countries by financing the development of roads, ports and electrical production through its “Belt and Road” initiative. The Chinese have their eyes set on seaports in the Caribbean. These could be used as military outposts, similar to what China has done in setting up bases in the disputed South China Sea. 

It’s not a stretch to imagine a present day version of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Does anyone think we are ready? 

• Richard Berman is president of Berman and Co. in Washington, D.C.

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