Report: Chinese Military Companies Spent $24 Million Lobbying U.S. Government

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The Daily Caller on Thursday published a report that found Chinese military companies have spent over $24 million on lobbying the U.S. government since 2020.

The list of names includes companies the U.S. government has identified as major security threats, including telecom titan Huawei and Megvii, a facial recognition firm that helped Huawei design a system that could spot members of China’s oppressed Uyghur minority in a crowd.

“Chinese military corporations cast a wide net across the American government, lobbying the House, Senate and various parts of the executive branch, including the office of the president, often setting their sights on proposed policies that would impact their U.S. operations,” the report from the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) found.

The definition of a “Chinese military company” was established by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which maintains a list of entities that are either owned by various arms of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, or are involved in “military-civil fusions.”

Huawei was the biggest spender on Washington lobbyists, with over $10.8 million in outlays since 2020. This is unsurprising not only because of Huawei’s vast size, with nearly $100 billion in annual revenue, but because Huawei has been battling against U.S. legislation that would sharply limit the sale of its products.

As DCNF noted, Huawei won quite a few of those battles after paying big money for the services of high-powered, heavily-connected lobbying firms like the Podesta Group. Huawei has a subsidiary called Futurewei that also reportedly spent millions on lobbyists, and also saw the defeat of legislation that would have harmed its interests.

File/The Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac) corporate flags and the Chinese national flag fly outside the headquarters in Shanghai, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The Trump administrations addition of Comac to a Defense Department list of companies with Chinese military ties comes after a breakthrough in the state-backed jet manufacturers effort to win customers when an Indonesian airline agreed to buy its planes. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty)

Another troubling name on the list is BGI, a genomics company suspected of using prenatal test kits to “collect genetic and genomic data from around the globe,” as the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center put it. BGI spent far less than Huawei or its subsidiary on lobbying, but a bill that would have outlawed it from operating in the United States due to its involvement in bioweapon programs has been stalled in Congress.

A few of the Chinese companies on DCNF’s list are linked to the Uyghur genocide, either for helping Beijing keep the Uyghurs under constant surveillance or enslaving them.

DCNF noted that some big D.C. lobbying firms canceled their contracts with Chinese companies in February amid rumors of a congressional blacklist against lobbyists who worked for Chinese military companies.

“It’s definitely a conversation among members on the China committee. These companies represent our adversary and there is obviously an orchestrated effort on their part to buy us off with lobbying firms to gain influence,” a Republican committee member told Politico in February.

“China’s lobbying roster reads like a who’s who of Washington insiders, from retired Pentagon brass to former high-ranking congressional aides. One moment they’re advocating for a Fortune 100 company or U.S. defense contractor, the next they’re billing hours for DJI, Huawei, or another Chinese firm linked to China’s military or Chinese human rights atrocities,” lamented Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) senior fellow Craig Singleton.

Some Republican lawmakers had reportedly started to boycott lobbyists who worked for Chinese military companies on their own initiative, and some lobbyists had been informally put on notice that they could find themselves frozen out of Capitol Hill if they did not drop their Chinese clients. The boycott threat never went public, but it evidently had an effect – which is remarkable considering how powerful the top lobbying firms are.

Voice of America News (VOA) reported last month that the informal boycott and threats of legislative action convinced lobbying firms to “drop clients from China.”

File/Two men set up a weapon model next to a mannequin at a display of Chinese manufacturer Tianhe Defence during the 9th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai on November 13, 2012. (PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

“There are just certain entities we won’t meet with because we understand that while they may be doing it for commercial reasons, the interests that they’re representing are linked to Chinese goals, military goals and aspirations,” explained Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

One of the legislative remedies under discussion was requiring lobbyists to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) if they worked for entities on DoD’s list of Chinese military companies, or perhaps even for any Chinese firm, since all of them are subject to control by the PLA or Chinese Communist Party.

“The Chinese are unique in that there is no true solely private sector; they are forced to share information with the PLA and with their intelligence agencies. So, I would say anytime we’re dealing with a Chinese-owned enterprise, it’s a cause for concern,” mused Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), co-sponsor of a transparency bill.

Registering as foreign agents would be a bad public relations move for most lobbyists, and even that was not the sternest proposal on the table. According to VOA, some lawmakers are “considering a measure prohibiting lobbyists who represent companies on the list from meeting with members of Congress, even to discuss matters on behalf of their American clients.”

FDD’s Singleton told VOA in March that Chinese corporate lobbying exploded after the U.S. government began imposing restrictions on Huawei, at which point “Chinese firms switched gears and quickly scaled up.”

“The goal of these lobbying operations is simple: disrupting any actions that could negatively impact their clients’ market share, deflecting regulatory scrutiny and defending against sanctions,” Singleton said.


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