Senators Rubio, Cortez-Masto introduce bipartisan legislation to identify Chinese influence

Senators Rubio, Cortez-Masto introduce bipartisan legislation to identify Chinese influence
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) talks to reporters on May 22 after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Rubio and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) plan to introduce a bipartisan bill aimed at uncovering Chinese political influence. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has joined up with Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) to introduce a bipartisan bill that aims to identify and reveal Chinese political influence in the United States.

What is this about?

Rubio and Cortez-Masto are accusing China of trying to influence U.S. politics.

According to a June 8 letter sent by Rubio and Cortez-Masto to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Administrator for USAID Mark Green, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, “China’s influence operations have been subtle but are becoming increasingly apparent.”

The letter says that:

In American news outlets, Beijing has used financial ties to suppress negative information about the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. In the past four years, multiple media outlets with direct or indirect financial ties to China allegedly decided not to publish stories on wealth and corruption in the CCP.  In one case, an editor resigned due to mounting self-censorship in the outlet’s China coverage.

The letter also pointed to relationships between American academic institutions and Chinese organizations called “Confucius Institutes,” which they argue deliberately try to control discussion of China throughout the world. Rubio and Cortez-Masto said that when all of these incidents are looked at as a whole, a troubling pattern emerges.

What does the legislation say?

If it is passed, the legislation that Rubio and Cortez-Masto introduced would create an interagency task force under the jurisdiction of both the State Department and the director of National Intelligence.

This new agency would identify instances of Chinese political influence campaigns. These would then be published in an unclassified report.

For Rubio, it’s crucial that this report remain unclassified.  

“I think people will be surprised at some of the places in which China is playing a role,” he told Axios.

What else?

This is the second bill targeting China that Rubio has introduced in the past two days. On Wednesday, Rubio introduced a bill targeting Chinese-owned small businesses in the United States. Under that bill, these small businesses would not qualify for small business assistance from the federal government.