TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday railed against the Chinese government and the possible origins of Covid-19, playing on issues at the forefront of the conservative base.
DeSantis lashed out at China during an event Monday in Miami, where he signed into law a measure targeting undue foreign influence in Florida’s government and education system — a bill the Republican governor said are namely efforts to “start fighting back” against China.
DeSantis, seen as a future Republican presidential contender, said academia in the U.S. is “permeated” by outside sources. He spoke at a podium embellished with a “Stop CCP influence” sign. CCP is an abbreviation for Chinese Communist Party.
“If you look right now, there is no single entity that exercises a more pervasive, nefarious influence across a wide range of American industries and institutions than the Communist Party of China,” DeSantis said from the Florida National Guard Robert A. Ballard Armory in Miami.
The legislation: The two bills signed by DeSantis were top priorities of the governor and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who led a probe into China’s attempts to poach the work of Florida researchers. That investigation was spurred by accusations of Chinese meddling at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and state universities.
One measure — HB7017 (21R) — requires state agencies, colleges and universities to disclose all foreign gifts greater than $50,000. Private entities seeking grants or pursuing state contracts would be required under the legislation to disclose any financial ties worth more than $50,000 with seven countries including China, Cuba, Iran and Russia.
The other bill — HB1523 (21R) — introduces stiffer legal penalties for intellectual property theft benefiting a foreign nation and creates a new law against trafficking in trade secrets.
“Today, we expose and stop foreign adversaries and their agents from walking through the front doors of our corporations and universities and sneaking out the back with our taxpayer-funded research,” said Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, in a statement. “China’s spies can leave empty-handed.”
DeSantis vs. China: DeSantis has been a vocal critic of China as Florida’s governor, falling in line with former President Donald Trump, who just this weekend received standing ovations for demanding that China pay $10 trillion in “reparations” for its role in the pandemic.
DeSantis said Monday that China “needs to be held accountable” for the coronavirus. He bashed the media for “trying to suppress the lab leak theory” and took aim at the technology and entertainment industries for supporting China.
“If you’re somebody that will light your hair on fire because Georgia is requiring voter ID, yet you’re lining your pocket with money from China and not a peep about the slave labor that is going on over there — you, my friend, are a hypocrite,” DeSantis said.