Texas lawmakers are attempting to root out a China-backed business creeping into territory near a U.S. Air Force base.
Legislation that passed unanimously through the state senate in April would ban businesses backed by hostile countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea from acquiring critical infrastructure contracts or companies within the state. The bill's sponsors hope to make a stand against the incursion of Chinese business into the Texas power grid. State senator Donna Campbell (R., Texas), a lead sponsor of the act, said the inaction of the federal government left the challenge of confronting Chinese influence up to local lawmakers.
"The federal government is not stepping up to the plate to make sure that our country is secure," Campbell told the Washington Free Beacon. "This was happening right under our nose."
The GOP-led effort targets a 130,000-acre piece of land, which a China-backed firm hopes to turn into a wind farm. The project is managed by Chinese subsidiary company GH America Energy, a firm run by the China-based Guanghui Energy Company. The property for the wind farm has more acreage than the city of Tulsa and is within 70 miles of Laughlin Air Force Base, a military installation where Air Force pilots undergo training. Chinese business mogul Sun Guangxin founded Guanghui Energy. Sun's wealth earned him the nickname "King of Xinjiang," referring to the region in western China home to the genocide of Uyghur Muslims. The businessman also rose through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party elite as a former Chinese military officer.
Campbell said the many ties between Sun and the Chinese Communist Party raise concerns about the safety of Texas's infrastructure.
"A Chinese billionaire who has high-ranking connections with the Chinese Communist Party purchased nearly 150,000 acres of land in a sparsely populated area of Texas," Campbell said. "We can’t allow hostile nations to get a foothold in our critical infrastructure."
Texas Public Policy Foundation expert Jason Isaac said the presence of a China-backed company in such close proximity to a major U.S. military base raises concerns about the potential for spying and attacks on the power grid serving the area.
"It’s extremely frightening that we have foreign companies that we want to connect to our grid," Isaac said. "It’s not only the espionage impact of having a Chinese-controlled company close to the base, but also the ability that they could have the base without power for an exceedingly long period of time."
Major foreign investments into U.S. projects are typically reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) for any red flags related to national security vulnerabilities. In June 2020, CFIUS authorized GH America Energy’s Texas wind farm plans, even as former CIA officer and then-representative Will Hurd (R., Texas) said the firm’s approval was "scary" and cause for concern.
Hurd’s successor, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R., Texas), told the Free Beacon the wind farm is one part of a larger effort from the Chinese Communist Party to undermine the United States on its home front, and that it needs to be stopped immediately. The congressman introduced a bill in April that would ban land acquisition by adversaries within 100 miles of a military installation, or 50 miles from a military operations area.
"China’s literally in my backyard here in my district," Gonzales said. "What I don’t want to see happen is that we wake up and the amount of Air Force pilots we are creating is cut in half because of some wind farm that the Chinese government put up and we could have stopped this. Those are the kind of games the Communist Party plays."
Gonzales's comments echo the concerns of Campbell, who warned the involvement of Chinese businesses in critical infrastructure could be occurring in other states. Campbell noted that only three electrical power grids serve the mainland United States, with one dedicated to Texas.
"Whatever happens to Texas can affect the nation," Campbell said. "We can’t allow hostile nations to get a foot in our critical infrastructure. Other states have to assess enterprises going on within their own borders."
The state bill is set to undergo a hearing in the Texas House of Representatives this month.