Ex-Intelligence Official Says Chinese Factory Will '100%' Bring Spies to US

July 27, 2023

Former intelligence official Bill Evanina told Congress Wednesday that a Chinese company trying to build a battery factory in Michigan will "100 percent" bring spies to the United States.

Evanina, who served as director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, was asked by Rep. John Moolenaar (R., Mich.) if it is "basically a guarantee that some of the people who come from China to work on this project will spy for the CCP." Evanina responded, "100 percent."

"There will be an effort by the Communist Party of China to infiltrate that capability via cyber, human, and hybrid methods," Evanina told the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party during a Wednesday hearing Wednesday. "Using businessmen, engineers, and what we call the non-traditional collectors, they will go over and above to implement their methods in that particular technology that’s in your district."

The project is one of two planned battery plants in Michigan that have come under scrutiny for CCP ties in the past year. Gotion Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of China-based Gotion High-Tech Co., is set to build a $2.4 billion electric vehicle battery plant near Big Rapids, Mich., and has received more than $700 million in state and local incentives. Another project in the southern part of the state involving Ford and another Chinese battery manufacturer, CATL, has drawn similar scrutiny. Federal lawmakers, including select committee chair Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), are asking Ford for licensing documents and more information on the deal.

Federal regulators last month declined to review the Gotion project after state lawmakers gave final approval in April. Company board members have connections to the CCP, according to shareholder communications compiled by Big Rapids Township. 

CATL, Ford’s Chinese partner, has been bolstered by the Chinese Communist Party in recent years with investments, subsidies, and favorable regulations. CATL's CEO, Robin Zeng Yuqun, served on a Chinese Communist Party advisory committee, the Washington Free Beacon reported in April.

"In my experience in the intelligence community in the last decade, I have not seen an example of a private company that is not owned, operated, or influenced by the Communist Party of China," Evanina said.

Both projects come as lawmakers and regulators in Washington raise concerns about Chinese influence in the U.S. economy and theft of American technology. Beijing-linked hackers earlier this month compromised the emails of thousands of U.S. officials, including the U.S. ambassador to China and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

"The CCP is working to attract American scientists through its Thousand Talents program, hacking America’s most innovative companies, and stealing our discoveries and know-how while punishing dissidents within and beyond its own borders," Josh Wolfe, cofounder of venture capital firm Lux Capital, told the select committee Wednesday evening.

The select committee said last week it is investigating U.S. investments in Chinese tech ventures, saying American firms could be aiding China’s military advancement and human rights abuses. Wolfe said Chinese companies strengthening the country’s military should not have access to U.S. capital markets.

"It’s one thing to think about the Belt and Road Initiative," Wolfe said. "It’s another thing if you are handing somebody the belt to tie around your neck."

Published under: China