Letter To The Editor: Wyoming Reforms Needed to Protect Against Foreign Adversaries

Dear editor: President Biden sounded an awful lot like President Trump this week when he announced massive tariffs on Chinese cars and green technology.

May 15, 20245 min read

Mix Collage 15 May 2024 04 16 PM 2909
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Dear editor:

President Biden sounded an awful lot like President Trump this week when he announced massive tariffs on Chinese cars and green technology. The trade levies were framed in national security justifications, as was recent bipartisan legislation to force TikTok to divest to American ownership.

Federal reforms won’t be enough. States are now on the front lines in countering global adversaries, and policy leaders must lean in to protect state and local assets, like Wyoming did by divesting its pensions from China. Yet it’s time for Wyoming lawmakers to more robustly engagethe fight. Critical reforms are needed to protect Wyoming citizens and critical infrastructure against what could be a near-term threat.

In another commendable move, President Biden also ordered a Chinese-owned cryptocurrency mine to divest from ownership near Warren Air Force Base this week. The crypto company’s operations, which are a mere mile from nuclear missile facilities, involve equipment that facilitates espionage. But Wyoming can’t simply wait for federal action, which often comes too little too late. 

China has repeatedly attempted to gain leverage over America’s nuclear arsenal that spans Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado. In fact, Huawei is the primary provider of communications hardware around these missile bases, according to a CNN report from 2022.

The report cites FBI investigators who dug into Huawei’s sales of equipment around these missile bases, and even found that China’s government can intercept and disrupt sensitive DoD communications through the Huawei equipment. Notably, Huawei sold the equipment at an economic loss.

So, what should Wyoming do in the face of this broad threat? 

First, Wyoming should protect critical infrastructure. In a bipartisan reform, Nebraska responded to the Huawei problem by ordering all Huawei equipment to be removed from its grid immediately. Democrat Senator Eliot Bostar sponsored legislation backed by Republican Governor Jim Pillen requiring penalties and denial of public funds for providers who fail to remove the compromised equipment.

Nebraska also enacted a Pacific Conflict Stress Test to prepare state supply chains and critical infrastructure ahead of a potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific theater. State lawmakers recall the extraordinary disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. States will face ten times the disruption if China invades Taiwan, and the federal government will be too focused on projecting hard power in the Pacific to take care of state problems. 

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be coupled with cyberattacks on American critical infrastructure (as the FBI repeatedly warns) and would sever critical American supply chains for drugs and power transformers. States must rapidly prepare.

Another way to protect state critical infrastructure is to reduce the surface area of interaction with China’s Communist Party and its proxies. Prohibiting land sales to Chinese companies is an essential reform enacted across a swath of states. Texas went still further by prohibiting foreign adversaries from investing in or contracting with state critical infrastructure. And states must stop procuring sensitive surveillance technologies from foreign adversary companies, such as computers, drones, and laser surveillance systems.

Idaho went still further by unanimously enacting a law to prohibit state-regulated health care systems from using genetic sequencing devices produced by China-controlled companies. Beijing Genomics is a Chinese military company operating in the U.S., according to the Department of Defense. Their goal is to harvest American DNA in the course of conducting genetic testing. American DNA data will be stored for future use by Beijing. Currently, China’s government and military uses BGI’s genetic technologies for human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which has sanctioned BGI and its affiliates. Wyoming states should follow Idaho’s lead in removing such sanctioned companies from state supply chains. 

Finally, states must shut down adversary influence operations on our soil, particularly on our campuses. Florida and Oklahoma have advanced sweeping higher ed reforms to block China and other adversaries from buying influence on campus, and to protect research and academic partnerships from communist subversion. Still more reforms are needed to block foreign agents that operate in business and in academia on behalf of China’s government, and to punish “transnational repression,” which is criminal behavior conducted on U.S. soil on behalf of hostile foreign governments.

China’s communist government has already victimized and killed tens of millions of their own citizens. In fact, the Chinese people themselves are the first and greatest victims of the Communist Party. Yet it has become clear that the Communist Party’s aggression now targets the American homeland – including our citizens and critical infrastructure. 

China’s assault on the American-led free world must be countered with a whole-of-government response. That means it is time for states like Wyoming to assume a new role in countering America’s adversaries.


Michael Lucci

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