Florida is reassessing its exposure to foreign Chinese influence under a plan announced Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The plan calls on the State Board of Administration to audit all Florida Retirement System investments and investigate its holdings in Chinese companies.
Alongside Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, the trio lambasted the Chinese government and described the relationship as a threat to national and economic security.
DeSantis is further urging the Legislature to pass laws that may bar investments into Chinese corporations.
“I would like the SBA to survey the investments that are currently being done,” DeSantis said. “When the Legislature comes back they can make statutory changes to say that the Communist Party of China is not a vehicle that we want to be entangled with. I think that would be something that would be very, very prudent. I also think that our country as a whole, but certainly Florida, would like to see more production and manufacturing re-shored and we would be a great place to do that.”
The audit marks DeSantis’ latest aggression against Chinese influence, an issue of ongoing debate at both the federal and state level. In June, DeSantis signed a slew of measures, including two aiming to curb intellectual theft and the trafficking of trade secrets.
“For far too long, the communist regime in China has attempted to infiltrate our financial and educational institutions,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez. “I applaud Gov. DeSantis’ efforts that will curb China’s investment in industries critical to our national security and protect Floridians from the dangers posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Patronis, who acts as the state’s purse-keeper, pointed to China’s growing grip on the nation as reason enough for the state-level divorce. They, Patronis said, are a prominent influence in Hollywood and Washington. Patronis also blasted the nation’s ongoing supply chain issues and China’s unwillingness to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
Federal leaders, he added, have been silent far too long about the relationship.
“I take my fiduciary responsibilities seriously and I think the SBA needs to start asking harder questions when it comes to whether investing any more in China is a good idea,” Patronis said. “It seems limiting our exposure to China is not only good for our country, but it is the financially prudent thing to do for our state.”
DeSantis and state leaders have become increasingly critical of foreign influence and “woke corporations.” In October, he lashed out at corporations during an annual meeting of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He vowed to fight companies that use corporate power to advance political ideologies.
Moody too has gone on the offensive, asserting Florida’s relationship with the Chinese government is a risk.
“Chinese government control and influence over businesses operating in China should be a source of concern for anyone investing there,” Moody said.
A video of the State Board of Administration meeting is available online.