Car Wars—Yet Another Threat From Beijing

By Thomas McArdle
Thomas McArdle
Thomas McArdle
Thomas McArdle was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and writes for
January 30, 2023Updated: January 31, 2023


Early this month it was reported that a security sweep discovered hidden inside a British government vehicle used to transport senior officials and diplomats a SIM card that can track and transmit long-term movements; the device was located within a sealed part imported from China. Due to warranty terms and commercial agreements the parts are installed without being opened, so there is no knowing what spyware is inside. A security expert told the Daily Mail it could mean that both Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies are tracking British officials.

Chinese firm China Unicorn, which is responsible for the parts and is under U.S. sanction, is relied on for 5G capability by some very familiar auto brand names—BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen, as well as Volvo, which since 2020 has been a subsidiary of China’s Zhejiang Geely, headquartered in Hangzhou in eastern China.

It turns out that not only does the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) know where its global rivals are going, but at an alarming rate, China is exporting the means by which more and more of the world travels. Exports of Chinese-manufactured automobiles have tripled since 2020 to over 2.5 million in 2022, according to the China Passenger Car Association. That places the Chinese mainland above the United States and South Korea, and behind only Japan on the list of the world’s biggest auto exporters.

As Bloomberg noted last week in a story entitled “The US Hasn’t Noticed That China-Made Cars Are Taking Over the World,” Chinese brands now dominate the market in the Middle East and Latin America. In Europe, China-made vehicles are mostly electric models from Tesla Inc. and the once-European but now Chinese-owned Volvo and MG, plus European brands like Dacia Spring and the BMW iX3, produced exclusively in China.

It added that “a raft of homegrown marques like BYD Co. and Nio Inc. are ascending as well, with ambitions to dominate the world of new-energy vehicles.”

Lest you wonder where the capital is coming from to empower China to take over the car world, you can find quite a bit of it originating in the good old USA. The Tesla-like EV, battery and solar panel maker BYD has long been a pet project of Omaha’s own Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway Inc., having invested some $232 million in BYD in 2008.

Today, BYD is selling Chinese electric cars in as lucrative a market as Australia, and Buffett has made a fortune on it. Not surprisingly, Buffett thinks China is the future of the world, remarking a few years ago that “they’re as smart as we are, they work as hard as we are, and they can have growth in the economy from a lower base that will exceed ours percentage-wise for a long time.”

China’s appearance as an auto export giant did not happen overnight, and it had a massive, quite visible presence in the United States going back years. More than four years ago, ex-president of General Motors Indonesia and former J.D. Power managing director for China Michael Dunne, author of “American Wheels, Chinese Roads,” was writing that there were no fewer than 51 Chinese automakers, suppliers, and auto-tech firms operating in America in early 2016—which by the time of Dunne’s writing in late 2018 had “more than doubled to 105.”

Dunne reported that these Chinese entities went from being hidden, like some Nazi or Soviet spy ring of the last century, to being found “lining the I-75 manufacturing corridor from Michigan to Georgia” making “a range of components including glass, suspension systems, bearings, airbags, tires, sealing parts, anti-vibration components, batteries for electric vehicles, instrument panels, stampings, magnesium die-cast components and power steering systems.”

Dunne asked the obvious question: “How did these companies become ensconced in America’s manufacturing heartland?” In many cases, it began by delivering parts to GM and Ford’s low-cost labor assembly operations in China two decades ago. Now they are actually in America supplying the Detroit Big Three directly. “The towns and counties of the Midwest and South are becoming their home away from home,” Dunne pointed out. While they were at it, Chinese firms acquired a sizable list of U.S. suppliers in their global expansion strategy, including A123 Systems, Henniges, Key Safety Systems, Meridian Magnesium, and Nexteer.

It has been hypothesized that instead of pursuing a historically conventional regional path to global military dominance, Beijing is instead “building a new Chinese-led security and economic order across the Eurasian land mass and Indian Ocean, while establishing Chinese centrality in global institutions,” as national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Johns Hopkins foreign policy historian Hal Brands discussed in Foreign Policy magazine in 2020. Success in doing so would amount to “outflanking the U.S. alliance system … by developing China’s economic, diplomatic, and political influence on a global scale.”

What exactly is China up to? Sullivan is not the only foreign policy observer on the Democrat side of the aisle who sounded a warning. In early 2019, Brookings Institution fellow and Obama national security official Tarun Chhabra wrote that “Beijing’s ‘flexible’ authoritarianism abroad, digital tools of surveillance and control, unique brand of authoritarian capitalism, and ‘weaponization’ of interdependence may in fact render China a more formidable threat to democracy and liberal values than the Soviet Union was during the Cold War.”

Chhabra added: “A flexibility and opportunism that, at least for now, do not demand strict fealty to CCP doctrine—but instead model, co-opt, and capture—may, over time, more effectively undermine the integrity of democratic states than heavy-handed, backlash-inducing coercion.”

The Senate Small Business Committee in early 2019, then chaired by Florida Republican Marco Rubio, saw this danger in mainland China’s growing electric car sector. Its report “Made in China 2025 and the Future of American Industry” stated: “In 2018, Ford and General Motors announced new electric car model production in China, and Tesla announced it would build its ‘Gigafactory 3’ in Shanghai. The Chinese firm Qiantu Motor announced last year its intent to sell the first Chinese automobile company-produced car, a luxury electric sedan, in the U.S.”

The report extrapolated that, faced with Chinese car-making competition and other strategic challenges, “Should global demand shift and the U.S. automobile industry not be prepared to meet it with growth areas of its own, the industry as a whole—including the many small businesses which supply and service it—is at risk.”

Communists have wised up since offering Americans the laughably inferior Yugo in the mid-1980s. Beyond hiding tracking devices, cars are a new step in Beijing’s use of authoritarian capitalism to shift to a new, CCP-led global economic order.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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