Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a harsh warning that China is seeking to interfere in American government at every level.
China, he warned, has “assessed our vulnerabilities and it’s decided to exploit our freedoms, to gain an advantage over us at the federal level, the state level and the local level.”
Pompeo, in a speech at the National Governors Association on Saturday, noted that a group called the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship and Foreign Countries, which invites officials from all walks of life to attend conferences, is “the public face of the Chinese Communist Party’s official foreign influence agency, the United Front Work Department.”
He said China has done its research on the states.
“Last year, a Chinese government-backed think tank in Beijing produced a report that assessed all 50 of America’s governors on their attitudes towards China. They labeled each of you ‘friendly,’ ‘hardline’ or ‘ambiguous,'” Pompeo said.
The secretary of state said his bottom line in making the speech was to increase awareness.
“So here’s the lesson,” he said. “The lesson is that competition with China is not just a federal issue. … It’s happening in your states with consequences for our foreign policy, for the citizens that reside in your states, and indeed, for each of you. …
“Competition with China is happening inside of your state, and it affects our capacity to perform America’s vital national security functions.”
Under its current leadership, Pompeo said, China “is moving exactly in the opposite direction — more repression, more unfair competition, more predatory economic practices; indeed, a more aggressive military posture as well.”
He said China is using America’s openness against it.
“The Chinese government has been methodical in the way it’s analyzed our system, our very open system, one that we’re deeply proud of. It’s assessed our vulnerabilities, and it’s decided to exploit our freedoms to gain advantage over us at the federal level, the state level, and the local level,” he said.
Pompeo said Chinese Communist Party friendship organizations are located all across the nation and are active in state and local affairs, often trying to prevent local officials from dealing with Taiwan. He pointed to the example of a high school in Chicago that withdrew an invitation to a Taiwanese representative.
“It’s one thing to pressure the secretary of state of the United States of America. It seems quite something else to go after a high school principal. It shows depth. It shows systemization. It shows intent,” he said.
He said China reaches into even elementary schools with its propaganda.
“Sadly, China’s propaganda campaign starts even earlier than college. China has targeted K through 12 schools through its ‘Confucius Classrooms,’ the CCP’s program to influence kids at elementary, middle and high schools around the world,” he said.
Pompeo said states must be aware that China is always seeking deals to its advantage.
“The China competition is happening. It’s happening in your states, and it’s a competition that goes to the very basic freedoms that every one of us values. And when it comes to doing business, I’m asking you to adopt a cautious mindset. In the words of President Reagan, when you’re approached for an introduction or a connection to a deal, trust but verify,” he said.
Pompeo also noted in his speech that state retirement fund investments often have Chinese connections.
“As of its latest public filing,” he said, “the Florida Retirement System is invested in a company that in turn is invested in surveillance gear that the Chinese Communist Party uses to track more than 1 million Muslim minorities.
“California’s pension fund, the largest public pension fund in the country, is invested in companies that supply the People’s Liberation Army that puts our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk.”
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