SCHWEPPE: Why is Biden’s Commerce Secretary interested in Chinese Communists?

President Biden has a problem with China, and it comes from above. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has spent much of her tenure rubbing shoulders with Chinese companies, including Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. This problematic relationship is emblematic of this administration’s failure — and Raimondo’s failure in particular — to prioritize American economic and national security interests that should be at the heart of the Commerce Department’s mission.

Prior to Raimondo’s appointment last year, the Commerce Department found that Huawei engaged in “activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States” and that its subsidiaries “pose a significant risk involvement in activities contrary to the national security of the United States”. States.” Specifically, the Department mentioned that Huawei provided financial services to Iran.

Huawei has also been closely linked to Chinese government efforts to monitor and identify Muslim Uyghurs, who have been targeted for mass detention and sterilization in what human rights groups describe as an ongoing genocide.

For its dealings with Iran, the Department added Huawei to its so-called “entity list” of foreign individuals and companies subject to trade restrictions, which seek to prevent Huawei from accessing important innovations American technologies, including advanced semiconductors.

But during his confirmation hearing, Raimondo declined to commit to keeping Huawei on the Entity List, urging Huawei lobbyists to keep looking for ways around the policy.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that another Chinese company, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), would partner with Huawei to build a $10 billion semiconductor fab. The Biden administration reportedly considered tighter restrictions on the minimum wage, but the Commerce Department reportedly blocked those efforts.

Raimondo also declined calls to add Huawei subsidiary Honor Device Co. to the entity list. Honor Device Co. is focused on smartphones, and critics say it was created for the specific reason of creating a loophole to avoid trade restrictions with Huawei.

“By splitting Honor, the [Chinese Communist Party] has so far guaranteed continued access to critical US technology needed to ensure that one of its companies can continue to produce smartphones – just as Huawei itself has also begun to feel the severe consequences in the market of ‘a successful US export control regime against him,’ said a letter to Raimondo from Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and signed by other senators. “In other words, just when one of the main national champions of the PRC began to suffer the repercussions of his actions, Beijing stepped in to ensure that a part of it, in the form d’Honneur, remains financially viable.”

Blatantly, the Commerce Department has failed even to stop illegal shipments to Huawei in violation of trade restrictions in place, leading to an investigative report and a reprimand issued by Republican members of the Senate Commerce Committee. And under Raimondo’s leadership, the Department approved license applications for Huawei to purchase hundreds of millions of dollars worth of chips for use in automotive sensors and displays.

It gets even more swampy. We now know from newly released schedules that Raimondo had a 30-minute phone call with Mickey Kantor during his first month in office. Kantor, a former U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, held a paid position on Huawei’s North American advisory board for at least a decade. He also defended Huawei against US scrutiny, including in an interview with a Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper.

More broadly, Kantor has been reported as one of China’s top allies on trade issues in Washington, calling the security risks posed by Chinese companies, including Huawei, “grossly overstated and exaggerated.” He also called for a “peaceful duopoly” with China and criticized US visa restrictions on Chinese companies.

Unlike many others listed in the timeline, Kantor is listed by name only with no identification of his past roles in the public or private sector. Based on the Department’s soft line to Huawei, Raimondo owes the American people an explanation of what was discussed and what his ongoing conversations regarding Huawei have involved.

The stakes are high and the risks are clear. Raimondo must address her critics’ concerns about Huawei, and she must address the weakness of her department’s approach to China.

Jon Schweppe is the Policy Director of American Principles Project. He is the founder of and co-author of a groundbreaking report detailing the outsized impact of Big Tech: “Big Tech versus Democracy.” Follow him on Twitter: @JonSchweppe.

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