WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) introduced legislation along with Senators Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), Kevin Cramer (R–N.D.), Thom Tillis (R–N.C.), Marco Rubio (R–Fla.), and Roger Marshall (R–Kans.) to shed light on the 157 sister city partnerships between U.S. and Chinese communities. Congressman Chip Roy (R–Tex.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Sister cities are strategic partnerships that Beijing brokers to create a foothold in American communities,” said Senator Blackburn. “These partnerships are yet another tool in Beijing’s campaign to infiltrate our culture to achieve their economic ends. In the past, China has used a sister city partnership to force a local government to abide by Chinese policies or face economic retaliation. It is imperative we shed light on these partnerships to determine whether they leave American communities vulnerable to foreign espionage and ideological coercion.”
“Right now sister city partnerships can too easily be abused by the Chinese Communist Party, a regime intent on spying on Americans, stealing American ideas, and targeting Americans for propaganda,” Senator Hawley said. “The Sister City Transparency Act addresses this threat by demanding transparency from sister city partnerships and identifying best practices for ensuring Beijing can’t use these relationships to advance its own malign agenda.”
“The Chinese Communist Party regularly exploits its sister city partnerships around the world to aggressively advance its own agenda,” said Senator Cramer. “Our bill would give us a better understanding of China’s reach into the United States and allow us to address that accordingly.”
“As China becomes a larger threat to the United States, we must have proper oversight and review of practices over sister city partnerships,” said Senator Tillis. “With proper insight, we can see the true nature of these partnerships and mitigate the risk of any corruption or destructive activity. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this legislation to protect our cities from any potential threat of espionage the Chinese Communist Party may impose.”
“Beijing has a history of conducting its malign activities by exploiting cultural and economic partnerships,” Senator Rubio said. “This means that sister city partnerships require further scrutiny. It’s in our national and economic security interest to better understand, and counter, China’s growing malign influence at the state and local level. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle to pass this bill, which will provide greater transparency on the CCP’s on-going efforts to conduct influence operations in the U.S.”
“The Chinese Communist Party is a direct, existential threat to America's national security and the way of life that we hold dear,” said Congressman Roy. “At the very least, we must ensure that our own American cities are not supporting a regime that wants to destroy us while leaving us vulnerable to foreign espionage and influence.”
“There must be a bipartisan push for transparency regarding these sister city relationships in the U.S. Addressing the threat that the CCP poses using those platforms is part of protecting Uyghurs and others targeted by the Chinese regime,” said the Campaign for Uyghurs. “The Chinese regime has openly stated that sister cities are a means to push the Belt and Road Initiative, one of the primary reasons for the genocide of Uyghurs, among other human rights abuses.”
The Sister City Transparency Act would create a GAO report on sister city partnerships operating within the U.S. More specifically, the bill would direct the Comptroller General to conduct a study on such partnerships involving foreign communities in countries with significant public sector corruption – e.g., the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The study would:
- Identify the oversight practices that U.S. communities implement to mitigate the risks of foreign espionage and economic coercion within sister city partnerships;
- Assess the extent to which foreign communities could use sister city partnerships to conduct malign activities, including academic and industrial espionage; and
- Review best practices to ensure transparency regarding sister city partnerships’ agreements, activities, and employees.
Click here for more information on the Sister City Transparency Act.