Betrayal? California Gov. Newsom Helps Chinese Get $1 Billion in COVID Aid


No, really, reader of The Western Journal. I swear I’ve learned my lesson this time: Don’t give Democratic governors the benefit of the doubt.

I thought I’d learned it the first time. When New York’s Andrew Cuomo looked like he was showing strong leadership in the opening week or two of the coronavirus crisis, I thought maybe we could put aside our petty differences and praise a politician from the other side. In fact, I did just that. And then it all ended in tears.

It wasn’t the rambling, empurpled news conferences that made the much-criticized presidential media briefings look like relative models of restraint. No, for me the moment I made a clean break was when I learned the much-hailed hand sanitizer production program Cuomo was fond of touting consisted of little more than inmates rebottling an outside product inside the Empire State’s prisons in order to make the governor look good.

I figured that’d disabuse me from the practice for a while. But then began my flirtation with Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. And no, not the kind of flirtation that involves having a job for Newsom while being his alcohol-clouded mistress and married to his best friend.

Instead, I’m talking about the kind of flirtation that involves praise for his work in combating COVID-19 in his state. Unlike Cuomo, who presides over the biggest coronavirus hotspot in the world, Newsom has done an admirable job of keeping his state’s two major metropolises under control in that respect.

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In fact, despite being America’s most populous state by a rather wide margin, California has slightly more than 5 percent of America’s coronavirus cases, and despite having 2.2 times the population of Los Angeles, New York City has 22 times the coronavirus deaths LA does. No. I didn’t misplace a decimal point.

I also didn’t misplace a decimal point when California announced a $1,000,000,000 outlay to purchase N95 respirator masks. And then, alas, reality set in.

How harsh? Consider the fact that conservative Newsmax and the liberal Los Angeles Times both hit him for what he did.

According to the Times, the problem wasn’t the cost of the masks — or where the money was going to, although that was equally problematic — but the lack of any details regarding the deal.

Do you approve of Newsom's $1 billion mask deal with China's BYD?

“The governor’s advisors have so far declined requests for information about the agreement with BYD, the Chinese electric car manufacturer hired to produce the masks, though the state has already wired the company the first installment of $495 million,” the Times reported.

“Newsom, who has been praised for his efforts to slow the spread of the disease, bristled on Saturday at suggestions that his administration has been too slow to explain a deal that will cost California taxpayers 30% more than his January budget would spend on infectious disease prevention for an entire fiscal year.”

Furthermore, he hasn’t bothered to brief the California Legislature on what, exactly, he agreed to.

“I must emphasize, that’s a big deal,” GOP state Sen. Jim Nielsen said during a legislative oversight hearing Tuesday. “And what is in the contract that ensures the deliverability — timely — is going to be really, really important. At the least, we cannot be just throwing out a false hope to people.”

The details sound impressive. Newsom’s office says it can buy 200 million N95 masks at an impressive price from BYD, heretofore known for its electric vehicles, using its state buying power. This may, in fact, be an accurate appraisal of how the deal would work — assuming, that is, BYD can convert its plants into N95-producing powerhouses.

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“Exactly how BYD has converted some of its manufacturing efforts in China to begin producing protective masks is unclear,” the Times reported.

“On March 13, it touted the creation of ‘the world’s largest mass-produced face masks plant’ in a news release posted on the company’s website. The company announced that it would make 5 million masks a day — far surpassing the 100 million masks a month promised by 3M, the company best known for producing N95 masks, used to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“A spokesman for BYD referred all questions about negotiations over the purchase of masks to Newsom’s office.”

Given that Newsom’s office appears entirely unwilling to share these details with legislators, you may perhaps begin to see the problem here. You may perhaps see a bigger problem when you consider Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services has delayed any response until May 4. But don’t worry, this is all totes legit.

Well, don’t worry. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown gave BYD a massive contract to build electric buses in Southern California and there were no issues with that.

“But there were criticisms of BYD’s work in California,” the Times reported. “Problems with some of the company’s electric buses were chronicled in a Times investigation in 2018. The former chief counsel of a competing company said in a 2013 letter to Long Beach officials that BYD had ‘a history of overpromising and underdelivering.’

“Workplace conditions have also come under scrutiny. California safety officials investigated the BYD facility four times between the summer of 2014 and last spring, according to records reviewed by The Times, alleging 20 different workplace violations.

“Among the violations alleged at the Lancaster electric car plant last year were errors in the proper use of respirators — safety masks — for its employees.

“A company spokesman declined to comment on any of the workplace citations because of pending legal action.

“In the years since it set up shop in California, BYD has quietly but steadily ramped up its governmental and political presence. The company has spent more than $1 million lobbying state officials since 2014 and made a $50,000 contribution to the 2018 ballot measure campaign to keep in place California’s new taxes on gas and diesel sales.

“In 2015, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development awarded BYD a $3-million tax credit to expand its manufacturing in California to other kinds of electric vehicles. But the company forfeited more than $1 million of the incentive.”

But other than that, how was the electric bus factory tour, Mrs. Lincoln?

BYD, in case you were wondering, stands for “Build Your Dreams,” which may well stand for the contracts it’s put together with the state of California as opposed to its vehicles.

And let’s not forget that at a time when we’re trying to diversify our supply chains for surgical and N95 masks away from China, Newsom apparently decided that it was time to put $1 billion of eggs into one very problematic Chinese company.

This is exactly why we realized critical manufacturing industries either can’t be moved out of the United States or need to have diversified supply lines. This is like “A Coronavirus Carol” and the governor is being visited by the Ghost of Don’t-You-Ever-Learn.

So alas, I’ve learned my lesson for real this time.

Yes, Gavin Newsom has done a reasonably good job of ensuring his state wasn’t overrun by coronavirus cases, but he’s still the same old Gavin Newsom who gives taxpayer money to illegal aliens and aims to use the coronavirus as the catalyst for a “new progressive era.”

This is a pitiful job of refusing to learn a critical lesson almost all public officials should have had drilled into them the moment they were unable to obtain personal protective equipment for their state.

This would almost be hilarious were it not — quite literally — deadly serious.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture