Rep. Jim Banks Castigates China for its Propaganda and Coronavirus Coverup
The Chinese Communist Party has a massive global apparatus to spread propaganda, from paid inserts in The Washington Post and The New York Times to networks of Twitter bots.
China Daily is one of nine Chinese outlets that have been designated as foreign missions by the State Department.
Earlier this year, the Chinese regime launched an aggressive campaign to deflect blame for its coverup and weaponization of the coronavirus outbreak.
In this episode, we sit down with Indiana Congressman Jim Banks, one of the first to demand reparations from the Chinese regime for its deadly coverup of the CCP virus.
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Jim Banks, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Jim Banks: Great to be with you.
Mr. Jekielek: Jim, last time we talked, we were talking about coronavirus. It was still in the early stages, but we already knew that the Chinese Communist Party was responsible. And at a very early time, you were already talking about the prospects of getting some kinds of reparation, holding China accountable financially. How have things come since then? It’s been three months, I think, since we spoke.
Rep. Banks: Yes, it’s been a while. I remember all the way back then, three months ago when we were calling for reparations to hold China accountable, immediately, I was called racist for raising the subject. Many of our critics on the left [and] even some on the right thought we were crazy for calling for it. But it seems that all of American politic has come around. American leaders have come around to the idea of admitting that yes, China is ultimately responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. What we know now [is] that China refused the CDC, WHO, and others from coming in to study COVID-19 back in January. Their outright refusal to allow that to happen—which could have prevented some say up to 90% of the cases of the coronavirus that have spread globally since then—[means] they should be ultimately held responsible for that.
From President Trump to, I believe, the vast majority of the American people, this is a shared belief in America. Unfortunately, our leaders haven’t done enough to hold China accountable at this point. I understand that we have a lot ahead of us as we rebuild the American economy, as we try to get America back on its feet. But at the same time, what the American people have suffered through, what people have suffered through all over the world, China should be held accountable for it. And so far, they aren’t being held accountable enough.
Mr. Jekielek: Just recently, Secretary Pompeo gave a speech. I’m almost sure you’ll agree it was a pretty significant shift. Of course, it came on the tails of the other speeches that were before by [Christopher] Wray, by [William] Barr, and by [Robert] O’Brien. So is there room for this holding China accountable financially in this new approach?
Rep. Banks: I really believe so. This president has come a long way. His administration has evolved substantially since the beginning. But where we sit today with Pompeo, O’Brien, the leadership at the FBI, and Attorney General Barr, some of the leading figures in American government today understand that it’s important that we don’t just rebuild America and get America back on track through our continued efforts, but at the same time, hold China accountable, not just for the coronavirus, but for their activities over decades that have sought to disrupt America [and] to disrupt American interest abroad.
There’s such a record here of China’s actions that are very much antithetical to American interest that we should be holding them accountable for that we’ve never had before. You have the right people in the right places to do that. Unfortunately, what’s looming over our heads is an election, and this is what the election, I believe, is all about. This isn’t a campaign interview. But on one side on the ballot, you have President Trump with this extraordinary team of leaders who understand the China threat better than ever before, versus a politician, Joe Biden, who, for 50 years, has been a part of leadership in America that has turned a blind eye to China’s actions. So that is what’s on the ballot. In November, who will we choose to put at the helm in the White House for the next four years? Someone who is content with leaving China alone and dismissing the China threat or someone who very much, for the first time in my lifetime, has identified it as a threat?
Mr. Jekielek: However, [former] Vice President Biden has talked about taking a tougher stance on China. In fact, he has advanced some policy positions in that vein.
Rep. Banks: He has [said] so because that reflects, I believe, the mood of the American people, but he has a record that’s very contrary to that. Joe Biden, as a senator and again as vice president, was a leader in American politics at the time that we normalized relations with China in the late 70s, early 80s, allowing them to enter the WTO in 2000, 2001. Those efforts began in the late 90s. And then, really, [there were] a couple of decades, especially for the entirety of the Obama administration, where we refused to ever hold China accountable for stealing our intellectual property, for disrupting the American economy by not living up to their end of generations of bad trade deals that we had in place with China as well. So the record speaks for itself. Talk is cheap, especially during a presidential election cycle, but the record is very clear, and it speaks for itself and is very much in contrast with President Trump’s record.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, … a number of people that I’ve spoken with have told me, basically, “Hey, I was really wrong about China. I was one of the people that voted for these things.” With any luck, this is the same situation for the [former] Vice President and his entourage.
I wanted to ask you a little bit about the China Daily. I heard you talking about that earlier, and … it continues to be delivered. This is Chinese Communist Party propaganda. They’ve been marked as a mission of the Chinese government. They are effectively representing the Chinese government, and this is in every congressional office as if it were another American media, and you’re very concerned about this. How is this still the case now?
Rep. Banks: Yes, it’s unbelievable to me. Every time I get my stack of newspapers on my doorstep in the Longworth House Office Building, the China Daily is in the middle of it, and I pull it out in the midst of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times and even your newspaper [The Epoch Times].
Here’s the China Daily, which is a state-run propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party that magically appears on the doorstep of every lawmaker on Capitol Hill. I’ve raised that question. I’m not trying to be either sarcastic or naive about it, but nobody has a good answer of how it ever appears on my doorstep to begin with. Who pays for that to appear on the doorstep of a member of Congress—by the way in locked, especially right now, locked-down Capitol Hill House Office Buildings with security that’s second to none with Capitol police officers everywhere? Magically, the China Daily, a state-run newspaper, propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party appears on my doorstep. Nobody can answer that question. The Sergeant at Arms, the House Administration Committee, even Speaker Pelosi has been completely silent on that subject.
The great irony of it is that every independent media outlet, mainstream media outlet, in America often criticizes the President or criticizes others for diminishing the freedom of the press, raising issues of First Amendment protections of the media. And here’s a newspaper that is in direct contrast to that. We require foreign outlets, propaganda outlets, to register as foreign agents in the United States of America, and yet we have them appearing on our chief decision-makers in America, our lawmakers’, doorsteps. We have this propaganda newspaper show up on our doorsteps. So it’s astonishing to me that it happens to begin with, but the very fact that no one will do anything about it and aside from your outlet, no other media outlet in America has even reported on it tells you something’s wrong, something’s backward with that paradigm.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s fascinating, and hopefully, something will be done further. I’m sure you’re pursuing it.
Rep. Banks: We’ll keep pursuing it.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about the effects of coronavirus, CCP virus, as we call it, here in America. Right now, there’s this big debate—I know this is something you’ve been weighing into—about whether or not to … reopen all sorts of things, but especially schools. There seems to be a kind of surge in cases; although it’s also debatable. Does that just mean we have a lot more testing or what does that mean exactly? There are a lot of mixed messages, certainly in the data with the politicization of the results and everything else. What are your thoughts?
Rep. Banks: Well, years from now when we look back and judge the response to how we dealt with the coronavirus, the most devastating thing that I believe that we’ll look back and say was a huge mistake was that we closed our schools and we kept them closed potentially well into this next school year. Many schools have announced that they will not reopen the classroom. They will provide virtual learning opportunities for kids who we know would be much better off in the classroom.
Meanwhile, by the way, China—who is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus to begin with—has reopened their schools. So that tells you something. China’s reopening their schools. We’re keeping ours closed at a time when we have a great power competition with China, when China is beating us in a number of different areas when it comes to STEM skills and education in their country versus American students. And they’re going to reopen their schools, get kids back in the classroom, and we’re going to keep ours closed. It’s just unbelievable to me that we would react in that fashion, not do everything that we can to get our kids back in the classroom.
I’ve said over and over again [that] we should change the conversation in America from “We might not be able to reopen our schools and get our kids back in the classroom” to “We’re going to do everything possible, everything that it takes to get our kids back in the classroom and give them the valuable, fundamental, important educational opportunities they need to compete in the next generation with China and any other threat that we face—when it comes to the skills that we need to economically and militarily confront the threats that we face, especially with China.” Right now we’re going to fall further and further behind because we’re keeping the doors to our schools closed.
Mr. Jekielek: Really, the big question is, “what is the risk to the kids, to the teacher, and so forth?” … Before we finish up, what are the experts telling you?
Rep. Banks: Well, science is very much on the side of reopening. Science and all of the statistics show that kids are the least likely to contract or spread the coronavirus to others. So the very fact in and of itself that there have been such a small number of cases of coronavirus among children and the death rate among children is almost zero … should govern the decision to reopen. It very much stands on the side of those who believe that we should reopen.
However, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t traffic in conspiracies, and I never have. I’ve never been that much of a skeptic. I’ve been much more hopeful about America. But when it comes to this subject, I really am beginning to believe that the day after Election Day, our educational leaders, the educrats, the ones that are in administration of our schools in America, are going to be just fine with reopening our schools. I believe this has as much to do with politics and the presidential election that looms ahead of us, as it does anything else. And that’s extremely bothersome to me.
Mr. Jekielek: We have to finish up in a moment. Any final words before we do?
Rep. Banks: Well, it’s great to be with you and talk about these subjects. Today, we’re at this Liberty University event here at the Trump Hotel talking about the China threat. All of a sudden, there is a large volume of policymakers and leaders in America … who understand the China threat more than ever before. Largely, I believe the American people get it. They understand what we’re up against with China because they’ve been affected by China economically for years, and it’s a good thing to see events like today take place to further identify the threat and talk about what we can do about it.
Mr. Jekielek: Congressman Jim Banks, thank you very much.
Rep. Banks: Thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.