Tuberville, a former college football coach who is in his first term in the Senate, explained why he made blocking investments into China-based entities one of his first legislative priorities.
“No. 1, China’s our biggest adversary in the world,” Tuberville told Epoch TV’s “American Thought Leaders.”
The senator introduced a bill last month that would prohibit Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds from being invested in any entity that is based in China.
TSP is the predominant government retirement fund. It’s utilized by 6 million military members and civilian employees.
Tuberville noted that he himself is part of the plan before expanding on the reasoning behind the legislation.
“We don’t want to enhance their military or their businesses. And basically, what it says is, we’re not going to allow this $700 billion to be invested in businesses in China because No. 1, you can’t control them—they don’t go by the rules. They do everything they possibly can to get around standards and regulations, and we’re enhancing their military,” he said.
“And we don’t need to do that—$700 billion is a lot of money. And so we’ve basically said that we do not want any president, not just President Biden or President Trump, but any president in the future—do not allow them to invest in China with the money from the federal government. There’s no reason to do that.”
Tuberville wasn’t surprised to learn about investment by the fund and others like it in Chinese companies, an issue he credited former President Donald Trump with raising. The primary issue is that every business in China has to answer to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), even if they claim they don’t, he said.
“They’re a dictatorship. They’re communist. They control everything. Now, they can say that some businesses don’t have anything to do with the CCP, but they do. At the end of the day, they have to answer to whoever. So I just think it’s important that we do everything possible that we can here. Now, we can’t do a lot to China, but we can not allow people to invest, especially the 401(k) money of the federal government. There’s no reason to allow that to happen.”
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which manages the TSP, under White House pressure last year said it was indefinitely postponing plans to invest in some China-based businesses.
“Due to a meaningfully different economic environment related in large part to the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the nomination of three new Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Members, pending further study, the board is delaying the implementation” of the planned change in investment strategy, the board said in a statement.
In a letter to then-Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Trump administration officials said investing TSP funds would “channel federal employees’ money to companies that present significant national security and humanitarian concerns because they operate in violation of U.S. sanction laws and assist the Chinese Government’s efforts to build its military and oppress religious minorities.”
President Joe Biden signed an order last week that ordered the Department of Labor to assess how the Thrift Investment Board “has taken environmental, social, and governance factors, including climate-related financial risk, into account.” It doesn’t mention China. In a separate order, Biden expanded a Trump-era ban on investments in Chinese defense and technology firms.
“President Trump didn’t allow it to happen. Now President Biden has made insinuations that he’s not going to allow some money to go over and be invested in [China]. He didn’t say anything about the TSP, the Thrift Savings Plan, but he’s brought it up really in the last week,” Tuberville said, noting that his legislation “would not allow any president from now on” to allow investment of TSP funds in China.
Tuberville said he has significant support for the bill, and legislators are amending it to try to get it passed in the Democrat-controlled Congress.
A separate bill that would ban the TSP from investing in Chinese firms was introduced last month by a bipartisan group, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“It’s alarming that billions of dollars from the retirement accounts of federal government employees, like our military, are currently invested in China and prop up companies that threaten American interests and values. That’s unacceptable,” Shaheen said at the time. “I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort to ensure China doesn’t profit off our civilian workforce or servicemembers, especially at the expense of our national security.”