INDIANAPOLIS – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently warned America's governors to be wary of China targeting states to expand its influence – a message hitting home for Gov. Eric Holcomb.
That's because he is one of 17 governors labeled “friendly” by a Chinese think tank and just last September took his first trade mission to China.
Pompeo urged the governors at a meeting of the National Governors Association this month to be careful of Chinese investment and influence, including through contacts with Chinese diplomats, students and organizations, according to an Associated Press report.
But Holcomb's press secretary said that doesn't mean having no relationship at all.
“The governor has made it a priority to take Indiana to the world and bring the world to Indiana. He is cognizant of global issues while staying focused on attracting and retaining jobs,” said press secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also informed all governors present, “You should know this doesn't mean we can't do business with China. I had an operation when I ran Century International. We had a small office in Shanghai. We can find places to cooperate when our interests converge.”
Hoffmeyer pointed to another speech given earlier this year when Pompeo said he doesn't mean everyone should get out of China.
“We want American companies to get rich doing business there. We want you to grow jobs here in America and build your companies successfully. We want to create conditions so that you can do so on a level playing field, in the spirit of respect between our two nations,” Pompeo said. “Indeed, that's the whole point of President Trump's trade talks.”
Axios reported that Washington's sharp turn toward hard-line policies on China means there's a strong push in Beijing to find other channels of engagement, especially through U.S. local government leaders.
A report by D&C Think, a think tank in Beijing, found in June 2019 that Holcomb and 16 other governors are termed friendly. Six governors, including Andrew Cuomo in New York and Ron DeSantis in Florida, were rated “hardline.”
All remaining governors were “unclear” or no stated position.
Axios said D&C Think is not officially affiliated with the Chinese government. But it states it partners with the United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party's political influence arm, among other organizations.
Holcomb's rating was given before his first-ever economic development trip to China in September.
“Our time in China was incredibly productive and inspired further ideas for partnerships and collaboration,” the governor said at that time. “I'm more than optimistic about the potential for future business investments as well as cultural and academic exchanges between Indiana and China. We were warmly received everywhere we traveled, underscoring the point that this was the perfect time for our visit to broaden and deepen our relations.”
U.S Jim Banks, R-3rd, has been expressing concern for months regarding China as a growing threat.
“We are becoming more and more aware of China's concerted efforts to infiltrate our universities and institutions for espionage purposes,” he said in a prepared statement.
“We need to do more at all levels of government to put an end to China's nefarious schemes – not do more to entangle ourselves further with the Chinese Communist Party. If we beckon them in, we help them fulfill their goal of dominating the USA militarily and economically.”