State of Florida Cracks Down on Beijing’s ‘Economic Infiltration’

By Neil Campbell | March 3, 2021
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives updates about the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic during a press conference on April 17, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale. A DeSantis Executive Order eliminated all fines from COVID-19 lockdown measure enforcement by county and city government officials.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a focused effort to crack down on what he calls “meticulous and deliberate” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) economic infiltration in his state during a press conference on Monday, March 1.

DeSantis’s announcement comes on the back of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the GOP’s annual meeting, which concluded in Orlando on Sunday with a strong anti-socialism and anti-communist focus. 

DeSantis said in his remarks that the CCP was “meticulous and deliberate in their economic infiltration across the globe.” He called the increasing influence of Chinese Communism in America and its allies’ affairs, along with the Party’s goals and interests as “antithetical to the basic tenets of the American Republic” and “one of the most pervasive threats to American security and prosperity.”

The governor said his administration would take steps to address “past, current, and future concerns” regarding the CCP and other foreign influence in government, economic, and academic levels of Florida, with a focus on safeguarding the state’s education system. 

DeSantis decried the well-documented “mass infiltration and theft of American research,” saying Florida must “eliminate any tolerance of clandestine foreign influence in our schools.” The governor made a specific target of CCP United Front Confucius Institutes, which he described as “language and culture programs with foreign governments that place the interest of those governments ahead of our own interests.”

President Joe Biden quietly rescinded a Trump administration decree requiring U.S. schools to disclose their partnerships with Confucius Institutes just days after taking office. However, Secretary of State Antony Blinken later stated that the decision was made as part of a blanket move to clean the slate of pending executive orders by the previous president.

Countering economic infiltration

The state intends to counter infiltration by requiring educational institutes to report gifts of over $50,000 from foreign governments or persons and the institution of a vetting and review process of foreign applications for research positions. Institutions who violate disclosure requirements will be made to pay 105 percent of the funds received to the State of Florida and will be subject to action by the State Attorney General. 

State agencies will also be required to report foreign gifts of over $50,000 and any foreign entities seeking a grant or contract of over $100,000. State agencies must also disclose any “contact with, donation from, or grant received” from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela.

“Not only is this an issue of establishing barriers to foreign influence. It’s also a measure of sound fiscal stewardship to ensure tax dollars don’t end up in the hands of the likes of Maduro, Kim Jong-un, or the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said. 

DeSantis also said his measures would bolster law enforcement’s ability to “go after corporate spies.” It will seek to pass new legislation that would “create a third-degree felony for a person who commits theft of a trade secret and a second-degree felony [for] trafficking trade secrets.” 

Charges will be increased one degree higher for those who commit the act for a foreign agent or entity.

In February, DeSantis also announced his government would introduce legislation that would penalize Big Tech for enacting censorship against conservatives on their platforms. He called the companies “enforcers of preferred narratives” who “negatively impacted Americans who dissent from orthodoxies; favored by the Big Tech cartel.”

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