Michigan Congressman John Moolenaar named chair of special committee on Chinese Communist Party

Moolenaar says the committee has a broad agenda, from helping U.S. automakers remain competitive to addressing China’s potential control over TikTok.

Congressman John Moolenaar (R-Mich.)

Congressman John Moolenaar (R-Mich.)

One of the few issues the deeply-divided U.S. Congress agrees on is taking a hard line on China. 

Now a Michigan Congressman has a key role in that effort. 

West Michigan Republican U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar recently became chair of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. 

Moolenaar says the committee has a broad agenda, from helping U.S. automakers remain competitive to attempting to cancel China’s control over the popular social media platform TikTok. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

U.S Rep. John Moolenaar: If you look at how the CCP uses TikTok, there is the ability to access Americans private data and to influence Americans based on the algorithms they use. And so what we’ve proposed is, not a ban on TikTok, but forcing TikTok to choose who they want to serve, the Chinese Communist Party or the American people. And to give their parent company ByteDance, which is headquartered in China, time to sell TikTok to an American company or some kind of a company that is not an adversary of the United States. 

Quinn Klinefelter, WDET News: Beyond TikTok, what do you see that the U.S. can do to combat this overall cyber espionage?

Moolenaar: We need to be vigilant in the government as well as in the private sector. Our strategic utilities, different sources of water, electricity, the grid, all these areas we need to up our game in terms of cybersecurity. The FBI has been very involved in this. We experienced hacking at the highest levels of the federal government, at the Commerce Department. We’ve seen them fly a spy balloon over our country, they bribed military officials. So a lot of nefarious activity that we need to continue to expose and then respond so that we don’t let them influence the United States of America. 

Klinefelter: One of the responses that you’ve done in a different sector regarding China was you sponsored the No Gotion Act, the bill that would deny certain green energy tax benefits to companies that were connected to China and countries of concern. Gotion is one of China’s largest electric vehicle battery makers. The Michigan legislature approved it to build a more than $2 billion plant in Green Charter Township. Did you sponsor the No Gotion bill because of national security concerns, because of the competition that China would pose to U.S. automakers or for some other reason?

Moolenaar: I think it’s multiple reasons. No. 1, we should not be subsidizing our adversaries to compete against us. In the case of Gotion, they’re already subsidized by China. By also providing them subsidies from state of Michigan taxpayer dollars, we’re giving them a tremendous advantage. And they’re trying to access federal taxpayer dollars, as well. When you consider that American taxpayer dollars would be used to fund companies that are affiliated with our adversaries, to me that is a huge strategic mistake. We’re also noting that they are within 100 miles of Camp Grayling. Consider the spy balloon that went over the United States. Of course, China disavowed any knowledge of that, said it was not a serious concern. But we just can’t trust what the Chinese Communist Party says. I’ve heard from two former CIA directors in committee hearings that China will leverage anything having to do with Gotion and manufacturing, even perhaps sell it. This is a concern when you hear that from Mike Pompeo, who’s a Republican, as well as Leon Panetta, who’s a Democrat, talking about the nefarious activity of the CCP. And we simply don’t need that in Michigan.

Klinefelter: When you talk about bipartisanship, you were with a bipartisan group of lawmakers last year that talked to Ford and General Motors and auto suppliers, not just about Gotion, but about the reliance on Chinese supply chains in particular, especially for the auto industry here in Michigan. What could Congress do, in your view, to try to help lessen the reliance on Chinese supply chains?

Moolenaar: What is driving a lot of us competing on China’s home field is this push for electric vehicles. The federal mandate, the emission standards that the EPA is putting out that forces people to buy electric vehicles. And what that does is forces our auto companies to rely on Chinese technology and materials where China has a strategic advantage. I would much rather see customers choose which vehicle they want to drive and allow our American auto companies to innovate and respond to customer demand as well as new technologies, rather than being forced into this by a government mandate that actually benefits China, who is the largest exporter of automobiles and has a strategic advantage in many of these areas. 

Klinefelter: The Biden administration has been pushing that effort to transition to electric vehicles. They say that they’re also pushing to create a more domestic-based supply chain. What do you think of what the administration’s been trying to do?

Moolenaar: I think it’s important that we work together and have a united America where we want American jobs, American manufacturing and American innovation. Unfortunately, when you put these government mandates and subsidies in place, that actually distorts the market. It discourages innovation. And it’s forcing our companies to rely on Chinese ingenuity and areas where they have advantages and strategic minerals and a supply chain that benefits them. So I think the government should get out of it and simply allow our American businesses to innovate. 

Klinefelter: On the other side, former President Trump said recently that he would levy 100% tariffs on cars built by Chinese manufacturers in Mexico. Do you favor that kind of approach?

Moolenaar: That’s something we’d have to look at. I want to make sure we have a level playing field and allow our American businesses to compete. Clearly China subsidizes its industry. They are also subservient to the military and the Chinese Communist Party. So we need to be very mindful of what it looks like to have fair competition. And also make sure that we have strong national security protecting our borders. 

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  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.