Chris Lange, FISM News
Ford Motor Company announced Monday that it would pause construction of a billion-dollar plant in Michigan involving a Chinese electric vehicle battery company that has drawn scrutiny from Republican lawmakers over its ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Ford told Fox Business in a statement that work on the factory has been paused and that spending would be limited but declined to comment on what led to the decision. The Detroit-based company also said that it has not made a final decision about the future of the project that it has vigorously defended for months.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised Ford’s February announcement of its agreement to use services provided by China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) to manufacture battery cells at the plant.
Republicans and national security experts, however, excoriated the company for teaming up with a CCP-linked firm, let alone on such a large investment.
A ‘NATIONAL SECURITY RISK’
Ford’s announcement came amid a House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation into the billion-dollar partnership.
Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) voiced concern in a Sept. 1 letter to Ford CEO Jim Farley that the CATL deal could potentially pose a national security risk.
“While Ford has labeled this project a ‘commitment to American manufacturing’ and asserts it will create 2,500 new American jobs, we are concerned that Ford’s partnership with a Chinese company could aid China’s efforts to expand its control over United States electric vehicle supply chains and jeopardize national security by furthering dependence on China,” the Republicans wrote.
The lawmakers added that the partnership “and others like it” will serve to deepen U.S. dependence on China.
“Should China gain control of domestic electric vehicle production, the United States would be exposed to serious national security risks at a time of escalating geopolitical tensions,” they wrote.
Republican leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party also expressed concerns about the project in separate inquiries.
Virginia entertained, but eventually rejected, a similar proposal. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin strongly opposed China’s potential influence in the plan and the fact that “CATL and the Chinese Communist Party would have full operational control over the technology.”
Meanwhile, battery plant projects in Michigan and Illinois in partnership with Gotion Inc. have also come under scrutiny.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Republican representatives from both affected states urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a Sept. 20 letter to take a closer look at the company, citing concerns over its alleged ties to the Chinese government.
The lawmakers argued that the CCP maintained “effective control” over Gotion High-Tech through a number of individual shareholders, including the company’s founder and CEO Li Zhen. They also pointed out that, apart from Germany’s 30% share, the majority of Gotion High-Tech’s other key shareholders are Chinese government-linked entities. Moreover, Gotion’s bylaws commit to carrying out the party’s strategic decisions, according to the letter. All of this should, at the very least, compel a review, they said.
“President Biden has identified electric vehicles and the lithium batteries that power them as critical parts of America’s transportation infrastructure,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is not in the interest of the United States to allow the CCP to control facilities estimated to produce thousands of those batteries, much less to provide it with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funded subsidies to do so.”
Chinese battery manufacturing company Gotion is loyal to China, not the United States. Allowing one of their plants to be built on American soil is a threat to national security.
— Senator Marco Rubio (@SenMarcoRubio) September 21, 2023
Gotion High-Tech’s “Articles of Association” state that “The Company shall set up a Party organization and carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China” and that it will “ensure necessary conditions for carrying out Party activities. The secretary of the Party committee shall be the chairman.”
Chuck Thelen, Gotion’s North American manufacturing vice president, dismissed the concerns, telling Politico, “Rumors that you’ve heard about us bringing communism to North America are just flat-out fear-mongering and really have nothing based in reality.”
WHITE HOUSE: ‘THIS IS NOT ABOUT CHINA’
Despite Republicans’ warnings, the Biden administration recently made clear that China will play a key role in America’s transition to clean energy.
A senior Biden official stated last week that the U.S. won’t be able to cut China out of the crucial minerals supply chain, even as Washington seeks to diversify its sources for materials used in the manufacture of everything from solar panels to EV batteries.
“This is not about China,” Jose Fernandez, the U.S. undersecretary for economic growth and the environment, told a briefing in New York last Friday, as reported by Bloomberg. “We are perfectly happy to work with them on this and right now we purchase many of the minerals from Chinese companies. It’s about diversifying.”
Fernandez stressed that China is, and will remain, a key U.S. partner since it plays a crucial role in processing raw minerals.
“The world needs them to be involved — the broader picture is climate change, and we’re not going to solve the climate crisis without the involvement of the [People’s Republic of China],” he said.