WASHINGTON—Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) joined with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) in urging Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to make public the names of companies owned or controlled by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has adopted a strategy of ‘Military-Civilian Fusion’ to achieve its national objectives, enlisting Chinese corporations and universities to harness emerging civilian technology for military purposes,” the four legislators told Esper in a Sept. 11 letter.
“If Beijing cannot develop technology on its own, it attempts to steal it from the United States using cyber espionage, intelligence assets operating in the United States, and state-directed companies that acquire American firms to transfer proprietary information,” the letter stated.
The four encouraged Esper to “re-examine all the statutory authorities” available to him “to confront the CCP’s strategy of Military-Civilian Fusion, including powers that have lain dormant for years.”
Chief among those authorities is a 20-year-old provision in the 1999 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the secretary of defense to “make a determination of those persons operating directly or indirectly in the United States or any of its territories and possessions that are Communist Chinese military companies.”
The provision was amended two years later to tell the defense secretary to share the information about those companies with Congress, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and multiple Cabinet secretaries.
The four legislators told Esper they want to know:
- “When was this list of Communist Chinese military companies operating in the United States last updated by the Department of Defense (DOD)?
- “As part of your commitment to achieving goals set out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, will you commit to updating and publicly releasing this list as soon as possible?”
It was unclear from the four legislators’ letter to Esper when DOD last updated the required compilation of communist Chinese military firms and shared it with Congress and other officials in the U.S. government.
It was unclear on Sept. 13 when the DOD compilation was most recently provided to Congress.
“We weren’t able to find anything recently, but I can’t say that with complete certainty it wasn’t,” Cotton spokesman Caroline Tabler said.
The letter regarding making the list of communist Chinese military firms public comes while evidence of China’s extensive use of cyber-espionage to steal U.S. technology continues to mount.
On Sept. 13, as The Epoch Times reported, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said 28 of 113 major cyberattacks on U.S. government agencies and defense and technology firms were perpetrated from China.
Despite a 2015 agreement between China and the United States to stop cyber-espionage for commercial purposes by state actors, Chinese cyberspying and the theft of intellectual property continue to cost the United States tens of billions of dollars annually, the report said.
Unlike most cyberattacks, which tend to emanate from criminal elements operating in other nations, the report said that the majority of the Chinese attacks were performed by state-sponsored intelligence actors to obtain information on technologies identified as strategic priorities by the Chinese regime, including telecommunications, health care, semiconductor manufacturing, and machine learning.
Earlier this week, a group of 10 senators, including five from each major political party, encouraged President Donald Trump to strengthen U.S. export controls to ensure China doesn’t continue to take advantage of Hong Kong’s special status as an international financial hub in Beijing’s cyber-espionage efforts.
“We believe it is critical that the United States take appropriate measures to ensure China does not abuse Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to steal or otherwise acquire critical or sensitive U.S. equipment and technologies in support of its strategic objectives or to infringe on the rights of people in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and elsewhere,” the senators said.
The problems created for U.S. national security interests by communist Chinese military firms are multiplied when U.S.-based technology firms such as Google work with them, directly or indirectly.
The Epoch Times reported in July 2019 that “Google has been cooperating with a leading artificial intelligence (AI) research body at Tsinghua University, a prestigious Chinese academic institution that also conducts AI research for the Chinese military.”
The university receives substantial funding from the Chinese military, and Google worked with the university in creating the Tsinghua University Institute for Artificial Intelligence.