China wants the West to know it loves “openness,” “inclusiveness,” and “cooperation,” Communist dictator Xi Jinping told the World Economic Forum on Jan. 25. This is the same Jinping who is perpetrating the Xinjiang genocide and working to crush freedom from Hong Kong to Taiwan and far beyond.
One can understand why Xi’s speech was titled, “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity’s Way Forward.” Economic, military, and political relations with the mostly free world have been very good to China. These ties have enabled a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that cares nothing for any of the principles Xi claims to espouse to pursue hegemony.
Particularly as a consequence of the Western ruling class’s desire to do business with China in numerous strategically significant areas, virtually all of America has been left vulnerable. Here’s one indicator of the extent America has been compromised by the CCP: According to the former head of U.S. counterintelligence, William Evanina, “80% of American adults have had all of their personally identifiable information stolen by the Communist Party of China.”
This was largely achieved through subterfuge. But such efforts at extracting our most precious assets and information — right down to our individual health data — are also transpiring right out in the open. Is anyone going to stand up and say “Enough!”?
Evanina’s remarks came during a “60 Minutes” report that touches on China’s effort to exploit the coronavirus pandemic, for which it is most responsible, in the critically important realm of genomics. As I noted in a recent article, China seeks to be the dominant global player in genomics.
The Trump administration’s recently declassified Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework recognized China would “harness” this position “in the service of authoritarianism.” Yet elements of our bureaucracy thwarted the framework, aimed at countering such ambitions, by providing China’s leading player in genomics entrée to the U.S. marketplace in ways our national security apparatus claimed threatened our private health data and safety.
As revealed in the “60 Minutes” interview, the company at the heart of the story, BGI Group, approached at least six states with plans to build and run coronavirus testing labs. This adds more color to the Wall Street Journal report indicating that “In the early days of the virus, BGI Group or people trying to distribute its products approached at least 11 states in a sometimes aggressive push to get the products into government-run laboratories or set up entire labs.”
“60 Minutes” notes that BGI Group declined to be interviewed in connection with its report. But it did prepare a telling response. First, BGI denied that “the genomic data of American citizens is in any way compromised through the activities of BGI in the U.S.” One wonders, why does BGI caveat “in the U.S.”? Has it compromised American genomic data abroad?
Second, BGI identified itself as “a private organization.” BGI, which has aptly been called the “Huawei of genomics” and has actually partnered with Huawei in connection with its Big Data efforts, has taken a page out of Huawei’s playbook in claiming such a corporate status. The implication is that as a private company, BGI is independent from the CCP. It is not.
As noted in my earlier mentioned article, BGI:
seeks to help the CCP ‘seize the commanding heights of international biotechnology competition.’ The CCP has conferred on BGI a pivotal role in its bio-genetics efforts, helping it to become a world leader in gene-sequencing, with substantial testing and research capabilities.
Furthermore, [the CCP]…has provided it the financing that enabled it to develop the world’s largest sequencing capacity at the time. It has permitted research collaboration between BGI’s affiliates and the People’s Liberation Army’s National University of Defense Technology, which may have applications concerning gene editing. It has put BGI’s research arm in charge of building and operating China’s state-funded National GeneBank in Shenzhen.
Setting aside the robust ties between BGI and the Chinese government, no leading Chinese company in any strategically significant sector could operate in China without at minimum the CCP’s approval and oversight.
Moreover, the “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics” — in reality, socialist rule by law — that prevails in China includes statutes concerning national security and intelligence that dictate that firms must do the bidding of the relevant apparatuses when called upon. Chinese businesses serve at the pleasure of their ultimate shareholder, the ruling Communist Party. Just ask Jack Ma.
Increasingly, what was always implicit about the nature of Chinese “business” — that there is no dividing line between where private business begins and the state ends — is becoming explicit as Xi consolidates his power and overtly takes ever-greater control over the Chinese economy.
It is long past time America stop thinking about its commercial relations with China in terms of doing business with a normal power, and separating such business from strategic concerns. For the CCP, business exists to help it retain and grow its power, through increasing its wealth, the dependency of other nations on it, augmenting its technological and military capabilities, pilfering information that provides it leverage over others, and at every turn using commercial ties to grow its sphere of influence.
Until America acknowledges that every transaction with any Chinese entity may well be a de facto deal with a genocidal regime hellbent on becoming the dominant world power, the CCP will keep exploiting commerce for its malign ends. That it is doing so with respect to our most private data should chill even our ruling class members donning rose-colored glasses.
Ben Weingarten is a Federalist senior contributor, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, and fellow at the Claremont Institute. He was selected as a 2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow of the Fund for American Studies, under which he is currently working on a book on U.S.-China policy. You can find his work at benweingarten.com, and follow him on Twitter @bhweingarten.