Countering Communist China | Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

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Countering Communist China

By Governor Pete Ricketts

July 26, 2022

Governor’s Official Photo here.

This month I issued a proclamation declaring July 2022 as “Victims of Communism Month” in Nebraska. This is the second year in a row that I have issued this proclamation to highlight the atrocities committed by communist governments. There is no clearer example than the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose regime violates the human rights of its own people. In recent years, the CCP has ruthlessly crushed dissent in Hong Kong. He committed genocide against the Uyghurs. And he is one of the worst abusers of religious freedom in the world.

This proclamation also serves to remind Nebraskanians of the CCP’s corrosive reach abroad. As the leader of the free world, America is one of the CCP’s greatest targets, and we know they conduct large-scale operations to steal trade secrets, spy on Americans, and disrupt our way of life.

Intellectual property theft depletes American wealth, and the CCP is by far the biggest culprit. The US government estimates that intellectual property theft costs Americans between $225 billion and $600 billion a year. It is 2 to 5 times the amount of everything goods and services produced in Nebraska each year.

I am particularly alarmed by the theft of agricultural trade secrets by the CCP. To feed its population, China must import more agricultural products than any other country. President Xi Jinping has made it a priority to increase agricultural production in China. But to achieve this goal, the CCP has targeted the theft of American agricultural technologies, especially genetically modified (GM) seeds.

  • In April 2022, a Chinese national was sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit economic espionage. He worked at Monsanto in Missouri for nearly a decade before he was caught boarding a one-way flight to China. Federal authorities discovered in his possession a miniature SD card containing technology stolen from Monsanto.
  • In 2018, US Customs and Border Protection found stolen rice seeds in the luggage of two Chinese nationals at Honolulu airport. At the time, the two people were working as crop researchers in China. They had taken the seeds while visiting a research center in Arkansas and a rice production facility in Kansas.
  • And in 2016, a Chinese scientist was convicted of stealing GM seeds from cornfields in Iowa. He had collected thousands of seed samples from Monsanto and Pioneer test fields, shipping them to China where they could be used to develop similar hybrids.

The CCP is trying to cheat to better compete with American farmers. But he can have more sinister designs. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has expressed concern that the CCP is using US agricultural secrets to harm the US food supply. In May 2022, the Commission warned that “similar to hacking computer code, Beijing could easily hack the code or DNA of American GM seeds and wage biological warfare by creating a type of plague that could destroy American cultures.

In addition to sending secret agents to infiltrate American businesses, the CCP engages in organized cybercrime. FBI Director Christopher Wray reported that the CCP’s state-sponsored hacking operations are larger than those of all other countries combined.

Using sophisticated malware, a Chinese state hacking group known as APT 41 was able to hack into the systems of 30 multinational manufacturers and technology companies. As of 2019, the group stole trillions of dollars worth of plans, formulas, and other trade secrets. This included fighter and missile designs, information on pharmaceutical drugs and solar panel technologies.

China thinks in terms of decades and centuries. Their communist government is playing the long game, gradually gaining power in hopes of achieving strategic superiority. And social media has given them another footing. The CCP is actively mining data from China-based tech companies like TikTok. The CCP’s National Intelligence Law requires TikTok to hand over all data it collects to the Chinese government, including data on the roughly 100 million Americans who use TikTok each month.

With data from TikTok, the CCP can access users’ fingerprints and facial images. In turn, this biometric data can be sold on the Chinese black market to criminals involved in identity theft. The CCP can use this information to bypass security protocols to access classified files. And they can study the browsing habits of TikTok users to spread propaganda more effectively. That’s why Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr called TikTok an “unacceptable national security risk” and urged Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.

To maintain the security of data held by the state of Nebraska and to guard against intrusive cyber activity by the Chinese communist government, we blocked the loading of TikTok onto state devices in August 2020. I urge businesses in the Nebraska to do the same. If you use TikTok, the Chinese Communist Party can access your personal data.

As Governor, I will continue to monitor ways to better protect Nebraska’s innovators, producers, and leaders to guard against aggression from China. You can consult the full text of the proclamation of the Month for the Victims of Communism here. If you would like to learn more about the state of Nebraska’s work to counter the Communist Chinese government, please email [email protected] or call 402-471-2244.

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