Republican Lawmakers Move to Protect America From Chinese ‘Sister Cities’ Exploitation

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
April 20, 2023Congress
Republican Lawmakers Move to Protect America From Chinese ‘Sister Cities’ Exploitation
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) speaks during the Vision 2024 National Conservative Forum at the Charleston Area Convention Center in Charleston, S.C., on March 18, 2023. (Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)

Republican lawmakers are calling for an investigation into how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may be using “sister cities” to “push their geopolitical objectives” and spy on the United States.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the “Sister City Transparency Act” alongside Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) on April 19.

A “sister city” is a relationship or long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. Such a relationship is officially recognized through an agreement between the highest elected or appointed officials from both communities.

Under Blackburn’s bill (pdf), the Government Accountable Office (GAO) would be required to make a report evaluating the activities of so-called “sister city partnerships” operating in the United States if the foreign communities receive a score of 45 or less on Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Nations that have scored 45 or less on that list include Belarus, a close ally of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and dozens more.

Bill Specifics

According to the bill, the GAO’s report would need to identify the oversight practices that U.S. communities implement to “mitigate the risks of foreign espionage and economic coercion within sister city partnership,” assess the extent to which foreign communities could use sister city partnerships to conduct malign activities, including human rights abuses, and academic and industrial espionage, and review best practices to ensure transparency regarding sister city partnerships’ agreements, activities, and employees.

The report would also need to identify the extent to which sister city arrangements involve economic arrangements that make U.S. communities vulnerable to malign market practices, allow foreign nationals to access local commercial, educational, and political institutions, and how foreign communities could use the partnership to realize strategic objectives that are not conducive “to the economic and national security interests” of the United States, among other things.

The report would need to be submitted by the Comptroller General to the appropriate congressional committees no later than six months after the study into the sister city is initiated.

In a statement, the Republican lawmakers said the bill is necessary because while sister cities “exist ostensibly to promote cultural exchange and economic development” the CCP has begun to use such partnerships to “achieve geostrategic objectives.”

“Sister city partnerships are one of Beijing’s favorite political weapons,” said Blackburn.

“Across the globe, Communist China has exploited these relationships, ostensibly to promote cultural exchange. The truth is that these partnerships are much more sinister and are part of the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative to achieve geostrategic goals. It is imperative we shed light on these partnerships to determine whether they leave American communities vulnerable to foreign espionage and ideological coercion,” she added.

China Remains ‘Top Threat’

Elsewhere, Braun said that China remains the “top threat “to U.S. national security and that the bill is needed to shed light on America’s partnerships with Beijing to help “counter the CCP’s growing influence and protect American communities from malign activity.”

According to Sister Cities International (pdf), the United States has 1,800 partnerships with 138 countries across the globe, including 157 partnerships with Chinese communities.

However, the Republican senators noted that little information exists regarding the partnerships and their agreements, activities, and employees.

The latest bill comes amid increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing in the wake of the downing of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States earlier this year and privacy and security issues surrounding the Chinese-owned TikTok app, which is used by millions of Americans.

Those tensions have been further exacerbated following the recent arrest of two men found to be operating a secret police station in the Chinatown district of Manhattan on behalf of the Chinese regime.

Prosecutors say the men conspired to work as agents of the CCP and follow the regime’s orders to find and silence Chinese dissidents in the United States.

Responding to their arrests, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that the Biden administration “has been clear that we will use all available tools to protect American citizens and other U.S. persons from transnational repression and other forms of foreign malign influence.”

From The Epoch Times

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