Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three bills on May 8 limiting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in Florida.
In a ceremony in Brooksville, the governor signed a measure prohibiting the CCP—or other foreign countries of concern—from buying agricultural land anywhere in Florida, or making land purchases within 10 miles of sensitive locations such as military bases, ports, or power plants.
“We believe protecting our food supply is a security issue,” he said.
A second bill he signed bans state universities and colleges from accepting any grant or participating in any agreement or partnership with a foreign country of concern.
Nor may their officials accept gifts from the CCP or countries of concern.
DeSantis noted the state had already banned the Chinese Communist Party’s Confucius Institutes.
“We had one at Miami Dade College. It’s put out as more goodwill, but in reality it’s a way to put CCP propaganda onto our college and university campuses. And we clearly do not want [that].”
And a third bill he signed prohibits using the social media platform Tik Tok at government or educational institutions.
DeSantis said the software—popular with young people and others for its videos—spies on its users, mining data from them, and gives it to the CCP.
“Today Florida makes it very clear. We don’t want the CCP in the Sunshine State. We want to maintain this as the Free State of Florida,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis injected language resonating with international history into his remarks. His accusing the Chinese Communist Party of trying to establish industrial “hegemony” was rich with irony: the CCP for decades accused the United States of doing just that.
“The CCP has done a really, really effective job in identifying some of the soft underbelly of American society and really focusing on academic infiltration and influence,” DeSantis said.
The governor was echoing a term used by Britain’s World War II prime minister Winston Churchill to describe attacking Nazi-occupied Europe’s “soft underbelly” in the Mediterranean first, before a Normandy invasion.
“And they’ve been able to expand their influence in academia tremendously,” DeSantis said, “because they’re throwing a lot of money around. And so in Florida we say, ‘Not here. Not on our watch.’”
Still undeclared as a presidential candidate—but recently returned from a global tour—DeSantis took on a foreign policy issue with domestic effects a state government, if so inclined, can address.
He discussed how Communist China had become an adversary.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed Americans’ dependence upon China. “Almost anything you needed for COVID … I think almost 100 percent of it was produced in China.”
“There are so many things that our economy is dependent on China for, and it’s given them more leverage and more power as a result. So we do need to assert our economic sovereignty. Part of that is bringing supply chains home.”
The Chinese Communist Party, he said, has “established a position of economic might, of industrial hegemony, and their military is far stronger today than it was 20 or 25 years ago,” he said.
“They have a leader who’s very ideological and is intent on expanding CCP influence—not just in their region but … around the globe.
“Part of the reason we’re in this predicament is because elites in our own country, for a generation, have sought short-term profits over long-term U.S. interest.
“They thought people were making money, and that was good for some, and they didn’t have a long view of how that would work in terms of America’s industrial base here at home. Or American security abroad.
DeSantis said: “And so what’s developed, I think, is a relationship that really lacks symmetry and reciprocity.
“China does not trade with us. China dumps products here, and it’s very difficult for our businesses to be able to access their market. That’s completely at the whim of the CCP. So you really have an unfair trading relationship.
“They do dump products, they take our copyrights and they take our patents, and yet a lot of people have not done very much about it, who’ve been in positions of authority to do so.”
DeSantis decried “the folly of prior American policies,” including those to admit China to the World Trade Organization.
“Remember, they told us if you put China in the World Trade Organization and grant them most-favored trade status, that they would end up becoming a capitalist democracy. That’s what the elites were saying would happen.
“In reality, China got much richer. They created a massive industrial base. And they’ve used that to fuel more military and, really, to fortify Xi Jinping’s ambitions.
“So that’s just the reality of what happened. The elites in this country let us down.”
A speaker to follow DeSantis to the microphone was Charles Chou, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami.
Chou said Taiwan enjoyed close trade ties with Florida and has been in a sister-state relationship since 1992.
“As Taiwan continues to face growing military pressure and threat from [the] Chinese Communist Party, we highly appreciate the governor and the government of Florida’s unwavering and solid support to Taiwan.
“Taiwan will continue to stand tall and defend our homeland,” he said, and Taiwan will continue to advocate for its right to participate in international organizations such as the World Health Organization, which excludes it.
DeSantis noted afterward Florida’s legislation to invalidate any such WHO mandates was not also supported by state law.
From The Epoch Times