Virginia Gov. Youngkin Responds to Criticism Over China-Partnered Ford Plant Decision

Virginia Gov. Youngkin Responds to Criticism Over China-Partnered Ford Plant Decision
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 26, 2022. (Courtesy of Spirit of Virginia)
Terri Wu

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s removal of Virginia from consideration for Ford Motor Co.’s new battery plant has come under fire from Democrats, who say that the factory would have created many jobs in the state while questioning whether the national security concern over the automaker’s China-based partner was legitimate.

State Del. David Reid (D-Loudoun County), a former Navy intelligence officer, said in the House of Delegates on Jan. 17 that “no one in the intel community has ever even remotely implied that Ford was a front company for the Chinese.” He also criticized the governor for not delivering on the bipartisan goals of “bringing good-paying jobs and economic development to Virginia.”

In December, Youngkin asked the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to remove Virginia from location consideration for the Ford battery plant and not to submit an incentive package.

The agreement between Ford and the China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) to supply batteries for Ford’s electric vehicles would qualify CATL to receive lucrative production tax benefits under the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), according to a Bloomberg report. The report said that would be made possible with the deal-making Ford as the plant’s 100 percent owner, while CATL would own the technology and operate the facility.

“While Ford is an iconic American company, it became clear that this proposal would serve as a front for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which could compromise our economic security and Virginians’ personal privacy,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

“Virginians can be confident that companies with known ties to the Chinese Communist Party won’t receive a leg up from the Commonwealth’s economic incentive packages,” she continued. “When the potentially damaging effects of the deal were realized, the plant proposal never reached a final discussion stage. At each business proposal, the governor always seeks to find the best outcome for Virginians and the Commonwealth.”

Ford confirmed on Jan. 19 that a site hasn’t been selected for the plant.

Youngkin said at a press event on Jan. 15 that “We felt that the recent efforts to put forward a plan that would house Chinese technology to build the batteries was, in fact, representative of” putting a U.S. business in a position reliant on technology “owned and dominated by the Chinese.”

“We felt that the right thing to do was to not recruit Ford as a front, for China, to America. Let’s develop our own technology,” he added.

CATL’s Ties to Chinese State

CATL is the world’s biggest maker of batteries for electric vehicles, providing batteries to automakers such as General Motors (GM), Ford, and Tesla. CATL’s rise has much to do with the Chinese regime’s subsidy programs. According to a July 2018 report by a Chinese state-run publication The Time Weekly, Beijing provided the EV industry a subsidy of 59 billion yuan ($8.6 billion) in 2015 and 83 billion yuan ($12.1 billion) in 2016, based on incomplete central government data and the publication’s estimates. When CATL went public in China in 2018, it disclosed in its prospectus that it had received a total of $155 million in subsidies from central and local governments.
An electric vehicle arrives at China's largest recharging station in Beijing on May 30, 2012. (Feng Li/Getty Images)
An electric vehicle arrives at China's largest recharging station in Beijing on May 30, 2012. (Feng Li/Getty Images)
In August 2022, 16 Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, led by the committee’s then-ranking Republican member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), wrote a letter (pdf) to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warning about CATL.

“CATL is influential in the Chinese government—being able to independently draft government safety regulations while completely dominating the EV battery market with support from the Chinese government,” they wrote.

The company’s chairman, Zeng Yuqun, also is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the regime’s political advisory body.

In his address to the General Assembly at the beginning of a new legislative session, Youngkin said that the risks related to the CCP are “common sense,” calling the CCP “a dictatorial political party that only has one goal: global dominance at the expense of the United States.”

He explained the balance between attracting business to Virginia and incurring CCP-related national security risks:

“I’ve said before that I want ‘Made in America’ to mean ‘Made in Virginia.’ But let me be clear, ‘Made in Virginia’ cannot be a front for the Chinese Communist Party.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly cited a job number associated with Ford’s battery plant. The Epoch Times regrets the error.