AmericaSpace Note: The following statement was delivered during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations by Rep. Frank Wolf, Chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation.
Washington, D.C. (November 2, 2011) Thank you Chairman Rohrabacher for calling this important hearing on China’s espionage and the violation of the law by the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
I have been very troubled by this administration’s apparent eagerness to work with China on its space program and willingness to share other sensitive technologies. I want to be clear: the United States has no business cooperating with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to help develop its space program. We also should be wary of any agreements that involve the transfer of technology or sensitive information to Chinese institutions or companies, many of which are controlled by the government and the PLA.Space is the ultimate “high ground” that has provided the U.S. with countless security and economic advantages over the last 40 years. As the victor of the Cold War “space race” with the Soviet Union, the U.S. has held an enormous advantage in space technology, defense capabilities, and advanced sciences – generating entirely new sectors of our economy and creating thousands of private sector jobs.
China has developed its own space program at a surprising pace, having gone from launching their first manned spacecraft to launching components for an advanced space station in just 10 years.
But the Chinese space program is being led by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and to state the obvious, the PLA is not our friend as evidenced by their recent military posture and aggressive espionage against U.S. agencies and firms.
That is why I was troubled to learn from the press last fall about NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden’s imminent departure for a weeklong visit to China to discuss areas of cooperation between NASA and the PLA space program. I was equally concerned to learn that Dr. John Holdren, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), had spent 21 days in China on three separate trips in one year – more than any other country. Very little information about these cooperative agreements with China were being provided to Congress and the American people.
So, I included language in Section 1340 of the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution preventing NASA and OSTP from using federal funds “to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company.”
The provision in the omnibus appropriations bill was agreed to by Republican and Democrat conferees. It passed both houses with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama in April. The provision was clear, unambiguous and noncontroversial.
However, less than one month after its enactment, I learned that Dr. Holdren and OSTP had defied the provision. Even more troubling is that he withheld information about his intention to do so during his appearance before the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee when we discussed, among other things, the implementation of Section 1340, and Dr. Holdren’s participation in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, from May 6-10.
That is why I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate this violation and issue an opinion. I also asked GAO to determine whether the Office of Legal Counsel opinion provided by the Justice Department to justify this violation was legitimate.
In its October 11 opinion, GAO found, “The plain meaning of Section 1340 is clear. OSTP may not use its appropriations to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned companies.”
Further, GAO found that, “OSTP’s participation in the Innovation Dialogue and S&ED contravened the appropriations restriction,” and added that, “OSTP does not deny that it engaged in activities prohibited by Section 1340.”
The GAO finding also rebuts a September 19 memorandum prepared by the Justice Department’s OLC on the constitutionality of the provision. GAO stated, “In our view, legislation that was passed by Congress and signed by the President, thereby satisfying the Constitution’s bicameralism and presentment requirements, is entitled to a heavy presumption in favor of constitutionality.” GAO continued, “Determining the constitutionality of legislation is a province of the courts,” – not, I would add, the White House counsel’s office or the Department of Justice.
Finally, the GAO finding clearly notes, “As a consequence of using its appropriations in violation of Section 1340, OSTP violated the Antideficiency Act… By using its fiscal year 2011 appropriation in a manner specifically prohibited, OSTP violated the Antideficiency Act. Accordingly, OSTP should report the violation as required by the act.”
I also wrote Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to hold Dr. Holdren to full account for his violation of the Antideficiency Act by ensuring that he complies with all reporting requirements and other provisions of that law.
I take the GAO findings very seriously. Following the law is not voluntary for administration officials. That is why Dr. Holdren should commit today to full compliance with Section 1340 and publicly acknowledge his error in participating in the bilateral conference with the Chinese government.
Now I’d like to take a few minutes to put the administration’s posture toward China in the broader context of the Chinese government’s grave human rights abuses, espionage efforts and detrimental economic policies.
In June 1989 peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators gathered in Tiananmen Square. They were met with a brutal crackdown. As events unfolded, the world was captivated with the now famous image of the “Tank Man,”a lone student protestor who stood his ground in the face of an advancing Chinese tank. To this day his fate is unknown.
During my first trip to China in 1991, with Congressman Chris Smith, we visited Beijing Prison Number One where authorities informed us that approximately 40 Tiananmen Square protestors were behind bars. We left with a pair of socks, made by the prisoners, for export to the West.
Tellingly, the image of the “Tank Man,” while famous around the globe, is virtually unknown within China thanks to the “Great Firewall of China” which censors so-called “offensive” speech. It is estimated that China employs between 30,000 and 50,000 special Internet police.
Shockingly, the China has a thriving business of harvesting and selling for transplant kidneys, corneas and other human organs from executed prisoners. An August 27, 2009 Los Angeles Times article reported, “In a rare acknowledgment of a practice that has until recently been shrouded in secrecy, the state-run newspaper said 65 % of organ donors were executed prisoners…” The image here, from a 1994 BBC story, is of PLA officers preparing to execute prisoners. Later footage from the same story captures an unmarked van driving toward the prison to harvest the organs from the executed prisoners and transport them to a local hospital.
Like many repressive regimes throughout history, the Chinese government maintains a brutal system of labor camps. The State Department’s annual human rights report found that, “Forced labor remained a serious problem…”
Famed Chinese dissident Harry Wu spent nearly 20 years in Chinese gulags. In congressional testimony earlier this year, Wu said, “When I finally came to the U.S. in 1985, although I was already 48 years old, that was the first time in my life that I felt truly free.” He concluded by urging “President Obama and the U.S. Congress to be bold and take a firm stand against China’s human rights abuses.”
But boldness is hardly the order of the day when it comes to U.S. policy. The same could be said of some U.S. companies.
In 2006, Congressman Chris Smith and the late Congressman Tom Lantos, himself a Holocaust survivor, convened a hearing in which they publicly challenged the Internet giant Yahoo to look beyond the bottom line, and consider the moral implications of their complicity in imprisoning Chinese dissidents.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof authored a piece after the hearing writing, “Suppose that Anne Frank had maintained an e-mail account while in hiding in 1944, and that the Nazis had asked Yahoo for cooperation in tracking her down. It seems, based on Yahoo’s behavior in China, that it might have complied.”
Yahoo isn’t the only U.S. company to come under fire for pursuing business interests at the expense of human rights. A May 22 New York Times article, reported that Cisco, “customized its technology to help China track members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement…” There are multiple suits pending against Cisco.
These allegations reflect a worrying trend. American companies ought to represent American values. Instead, it seems that time and again major U.S. corporations are embracing Chinese government policies that are completely at odds with what America represents.
China, in turn, exports its repressive technologies to likeminded governments. An October 27, Wall Street Journal piece reported that the Chinese telecom giant Huawei “now dominates Iran’s government-controlled mobile-phone industry…it plays a role in enabling Iran’s state security network.”
It seems that not only is the U.S. failing to change China, but rather, China is changing us.
Is it any surprise considering what China is spending on high-powered lobbying firms in this town?
According to a January 9 Washington Post story, in recent years China has, “tripled the amount it spends on lobbying firms…” But well-heeled lobbyists can’t explain away China’s abysmal human rights record. Thousands of political and religious prisoners languish in prison.
Currently every one of the approximately 25 underground bishops of the Catholic Church is either in jail, under house arrest, under strict surveillance, or in hiding, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation.
Protestant house church pastors are routinely intimidated and imprisoned. The recently released annual report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China found the government placed 500 members of the Shouwang Church under “soft detention” between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011.
David Aikman, former Beijing bureau chief for TIME magazine, authored a piece noting: “The crackdown on Christians is part of a rising tide of repression against dissent that’s often accompanied by interrogations and torture.”
Since March, 10 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns have set themselves aflame in desperation at the abuses suffered by their people. One such nun is pictured here. Recently, cameramen smuggled out video footage of Chinese police in full riot gear carrying automatic rifles and iron bars outside of the monastery where several of the self-immolations occurred.
Rebiya Kadeer – a fearless advocate for the Uyghur Muslims in China – spent two years in solitary confinement before being exiled to the U.S. in 2005. Following her release, two of her sons were unjustly arrested and subsequently sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Chinese authorities continue to use Rebiya’s children and grandchildren as pawns in an effort to silence her.
We have seen that the Chinese government is unmoved and in fact emboldened in its ongoing repression while at the same time experiencing explosive economic growth. We also have seen our own short-sightedness in making the protection of basic liberties and the advancement of rule of law secondary to unfettered market access and normal trade relations.
These flawed policies have strengthened the oppressors and enabled China to advance economically at our expense. Every Member here represents constituents whose very livelihood has been negatively affected by China’s blatant economic espionage and predatory, protectionist and illegal practices.
Meanwhile, U.S. companies are increasingly sending American jobs to China. General Electric’s healthcare unit recently announced it was moving the headquarters of 115-year old X-ray business to Beijing. Ironically, the head of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt.
According to a March 24 New York Times article, GE paid zero taxes in the U.S. in 2010. Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service found that the Chinese State Tax Administration and China Tax magazine jointly released a number of lists of the top taxpayers in 2007 and GE featured prominently. The Beijing subsidiary of GE was number 32 on the top 100 taxpaying firms in the commercial services sector. It is noteworthy that GE, which pays no federal taxes in its home country, is honored for being a significant source of tax revenue to China.
Our engagement with China has not only empowered the government, failed to change their political system and undermined our economic security it has fueled China’s military apparatus. Again, the president’s “jobs czar,” Jeffrey Immelt, is at the center of these concerns.
An October 28 Defense News piece reported that, “U.S. aerospace companies may unknowingly be helping China’s military, according to a rough draft of the annual report on China’s military modernization by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, to be released in November.” Specifically the article pointed to, “last January’s announcement by General Electric and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) that they would launch a joint venture for integrated avionics” and cited the Commission’s soon to be released report which indicated that China, “has a robust, largely military space program..” with all but 13 of its roughly 70 satellites in orbit controlled by the military.
A May 17 article in Wired.com reported that Chinese troops have begun using a first-person-shooter video game, “Glorious Mission,” backed by the PLA, which simulates basic training in which the enemy is apparently the U.S. military.
An April 11, Aviation Week article reported, “The PLA has made great strides toward implementing a strategy…to deter or defeat U.S. forces in the Western Pacific.”
The 2010 annual Pentagon report cited earlier, found “…In the case of key national security technologies, controlled equipment, and other materials not readily obtainable through commercial means or academia, the PRC resorts to more focused efforts, including the use of its intelligence services and other-than legal means, in violation of U.S. laws and export controls.”
Let’s be perfectly clear about how China is advancing militarily: they are utilizing “other than legal means.”
The report also highlighted China’s cyber-espionage efforts. The U.S. intelligence community notes that China’s attempts to penetrate U.S. agencies are the most aggressive of all foreign intelligence organizations. According to a 2008 FBI statement, Chinese intelligence services “pose a significant threat both to the national security and to the compromise of U.S. critical national assets.”
Their espionage isn’t limited to government agencies. In an October 4 Washington Post article, Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, remarked, “When you talk to these companies behind closed doors . . . they describe attacks that originate in China, and have a level of sophistication and are clearly supported by a level of resources that can only be a nation-state entity.”
These breaches in our national security infrastructure are rampant and pose a very real threat. A May 14 Reuters story indicated that, “North Korea and Iran appear to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions, according to a confidential U.N. report…The report said the illicit technology transfers had ‘trans-shipment through a neighboring third country.’ That country was China, several diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.”
China is also a major arms supplier and source of economic strength to the regime in Khartoum. According to Human Rights First, during the years of the worst violence in Darfur “…China sold over $55 million worth of small arms to Khartoum.” I was part of the first Congressional delegation to Darfur. I heard the stories of rape, killing and displacement. America provided humanitarian supplies to the victims, while China provided arms to the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, Beijing rolled out the red carpet this year for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, an internationally indicted war criminal. Bashir’s crimes are not just a thing of the past. The current assault by northern Sudanese forces in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states has displaced thousands. There are credible news reports of targeted ethnic killings and satellite images of what appear to be mass graves.
Speaking of red carpet, President Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao with a State Dinner in January at the same time that 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, languished behind bars. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama was initially denied a meeting with President Obama and then in February 2010 was made to leave the White House through the back door to avoid press.
In closing, there will come a day when the Chinese communist government will fall, repressive, totalitarian regimes always do. And when that day comes, books will be written about who helped sustain this government in their final days. Will U.S. companies feature in that narrative? Will the U.S. government?
In 2001, a book was published titled, “IBM and the Holocaust.” A New York Times book review describes how IBM had “global control of a technology that was enormously helpful, indeed indispensable, to the Nazi machinery of war and annihilation.” The Times review quotes the author of the book as saying that many companies did what IBM did. They “refused to walk away from the extraordinary profits obtainable from trading with a pariah state…”
Arguably that assessment rings true today. Only the pariah state has changed.
Those in positions of leadership, be they in the private sector or in government, do our country a disservice when they gloss over or ignore the actions of the Chinese government. They put us squarely on the wrong side of history.
The Chinese government brutally represses its own people. It persecutes people of faith. It censors the Internet. It maintains labor camps.
The Chinese government actively engages in cyber-espionage. It steals state secrets. It aligns itself with countries directly at odds with U.S. interests. It supports genocidal governments and buttresses rogue regimes.
There’s a legal term, “willful blindness,” that aptly described our dealings to date with China. Faced with these painful truths, blindness is no longer an option.
In the words of British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”