After becoming chairman of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, Xi Jinping unsheathed China’s multifarious, aggressive strategy toward the United States and our allies.
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He did this by militarizing the South China Sea; hacking into the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to steal U.S. government employee data; and brazenly counterfeiting U.S. products, stealing its intellectual property, and forcing the transfer of technology to China.
Beyond the trade war, marked by U.S. efforts to downsize Chinese egregious unfair trade practices including its protectionism, the U.S. and China are on a collision course including an ideological confrontation between democracy and state-controlled communist autocracy, unprecedented since the Cold War.
The U.S. is under siege from a ubiquitous, full-throttled Chinese espionage campaign.
In Val Verde County, Texas, a wholly-owned Chinese subsidiary purchased over 100,000 acres of property as cover for gathering intelligence on U.S. border security, Texas’ electrical grid, and Laughlin Air Force Base.
Chinese intelligence is ruthlessly focused on penetrating U.S. innovation, military, and high technology sectors.
"From a counterintelligence perspective," FBI Director Wray has emphasized. "China represents the broadest and most challenging threat we face as a country."
China has exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to target democracy activists in Hong Kong, coerce nations to support their aggressive policy towards Taiwan, and lockdown U.S. airline carriers seeking to re-open their routes to China in favor of China’s state-run airline carriers.
Focused on using backdoors in Huawei’s equipment to augment their spying capabilities and compromise or jam communications in the event of conflict, China has also sought to use medical assistance as leverage to coerce nations to adopt Chinese 5G infrastructure.
China’s playbook is protectionism at home and exploiting openly accessible international commercial markets for economic predation.
Seeking to control its citizens’ freedom of expression and access to the rest of the world, China has sought similarly to impose cyber sovereignty over the internet through its “Great Firewall” while exploiting Western free press to its advantage.
China’s willful effort to conceal the outbreak and severity of the coronavirus drove more animosity into the U.S.-China bilateral relationship. And now China is seeking to take advantage of the economic recession resulting from the pandemic for which China itself is responsible, to target U.S. commercial aviation.
COVID-19 has ravaged U.S. commercial aircraft leasing industry. Reeling from the steep decline in travel resulting from the pandemic, most of the U.S. major carriers have asked their lessors for financial assistance usually in the form of a “rent holiday”, a year or two years of deferment.
Recognizing the opportunity to exploit the financial distress, which could result in the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, Bank of China (BOC) Aviation, a Chinese commercial aircraft-leasing firm with $2 billion line of credit from the Bank of China, is targeting the critically important U.S. aviation sector.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, BOC Aviation has reportedly allocated more than $5 billion in sale-leaseback transactions with U.S. airlines.
In April 2020 BOC Aviation purchased 22 airplanes each from United Airlines and American Airlines and leased them back.
In May 2020, BOC Aviation purchased 10 planes from Southwest Airlines and similarly leased them back.
China is exploiting the aircraft industry’s dire financial situation to buy our aircraft because China wants both access to aviation industry high technology and leverage in a key sector of the U.S. economy.
Chinese Government-owned Huawei is targeting our open telecommunications infrastructure just as Chinese Government-owned BOC-Aviation has our widely accessible aviation industry in its crosshairs.
The U.S. needs to take at least three steps to defend our national security from China’s attacks. First, Congress should allow aircraft lessors access to national security financial assistance from the Coronavirus Air, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Commercial aircraft companies need immediate access to liquidity in the form of loans, which would bridge the gap during near-term deferrals of payments by lessees.
Second, Congress should pass legislation designed to protect key sectors of our economy on which our national security relies, from foreign adversaries.
Special attention should be paid to blocking China from using its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary front companies to do Xi’s bidding.
Third, the House and Senate Intelligence Oversight Committees, at odds more often than not during the past three years, should take this opportunity to build some bipartisan consensus and hold subject matter expert open hearings exposing China’s commercial and espionage attacks.
Based on these hearings the Congress would be poised to write the new legislation we need to defend, deter, and counter China’s aggression, with support from a forewarned citizenry.
Daniel N. Hoffman has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Before joining Fox News, Hoffman had a distinguished career with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was a three-time station chief and a senior executive Clandestine Services officer.