The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) is reconsidering its plan to shift $50 billion in U.S. government employees’ retirement savings into a fund that includes Chinese government-owned companies, but a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators wants to forbid such an option from ever being considered again.
Both Florida Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are among vocal supporters of New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s "Taxpayers and Savers Protection (TSP) Act," which was filed last week – a week that saw Rubio and Scott also upbraid China on other fronts.
The FRTIB in August agreed to extend funds from its Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) into emerging markets, moving from the Morgan Stanley Capital International Europe, Australasia and Far East Index (MSCI EAFE) to the Morgan Stanley Capital International All Country World Ex-US Investable Market Index (MSCI ACWI Ex-US IMI).
FRTIB moved from MSCI EAFE to the MSCI ACWI Ex-US IMI because it covers 22 developed and 26 emerging markets with large, mid- and small-cap stocks from more than 6,000 companies.
After receiving harsh criticism, including in Congress, the board postponed its plan on Oct. 28. But the mere fact that FRTIB considered such a proposal is justification for the TSP Act, Rubio said.
“Today makes clear that a bipartisan, bicameral coalition in Congress will not sit on the sidelines and allow the TSP Board to funnel the federal retirement savings of U.S. service members and federal employees to the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said. “America’s investors should never be a source of wealth funding Beijing’s rise at the expense of our nation’s future prosperity, and the TSP Board should not force U.S. service members and federal employees to unwittingly undermine the American national security interests that they work hard every day to protect.”
“There’s absolutely no reason we should be using U.S. taxpayer dollars to prop up companies under the control of Communist China, which continues to steal our technology, abuse human rights and build up its military to compete with us,” Scott said. “We have to take a stand against Communist China, and I’m proud to co-sponsor the Taxpayers and Savers Protection Act to protect the retirement savings of federal employees from investments tied to China. No one should be doing business with Communist China, and the TSP Act is a logical step.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, said he will file a companion proposal in the U.S. House.
Rubio also had questions about China in a Nov. 7 letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper following a Wall Street Journal report that more than 2,700 banned Chinese-made surveillance devices are in use in Department of Defense facilities.
The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) banned procurement of cameras and associated electronics made by Chinese companies, including Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology.
“The intent of the NDAA language was to ensure U.S. government installations are not at risk of surveillance by potentially malicious Chinese technology. The provision also prohibited the renewal of any contracts currently in use across the federal government,” Rubio wrote to Esper.
Adding Hikvision and Dahua to the “export blacklist” is warranted, Rubio said, because both “have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance” against minorities.
“The Department of Defense must act quickly to identify and remove this equipment as every day that passes only provides our adversaries additional time to infiltrate and exploit our national security networks as well as the ability to monitor U.S. military activities that may be of interest,” Rubio said.
On Thursday, Scott sent a letter to News Media Alliance & American Press Institute President/CEO David Chavern asking that he urge members not to collaborate with China Daily.
“Growing up, I cannot imagine American newspapers including an insert paid for by Communist Soviet Union,” Scott said. “When did American newspapers stop caring about American values and simply sell access to their readers to the highest bidder?”
The News Media Alliance includes 2,000 U.S. news organizations. The American Press Institute is an educational nonprofit affiliated with the News Media Alliance.
Several News Media Alliance members, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, publish a supplement by China Daily, an English-language daily newspaper with an overseas circulation of 600,000 produced by China’s Communist Party.
“On the front page of the November 6th edition of China Daily, a story begins by saying ‘The wish for Western-style liberal democracy is a malignant virus that infects places with weakened ideological immune systems,’” Scott wrote. “I assume this is paid propaganda by Communist China. (But) Nowhere does it state it is an advertisement for the Communist Party of China.”