Blackburn Demands Transparency for Chinese Sister Cities
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R--Tenn.) introduced legislation along with Senators Josh Hawley (R--Mo.), Kevin Cramer (R--N.D.), and Marco Rubio (R--Fla.) to shed light on the 157 sister city partnerships between U.S. and Chinese communities.
"Sister-city partnerships may be Beijing's newest political weapon. Across the globe, China has exploited these relationships, which are ostensibly intended to promote cultural exchange, to achieve geostrategic goals," said Senator Blackburn. "It is imperative we shed light on these partnerships to determine whether they leave American communities vulnerable to foreign espionage and ideological coercion."
"The Chinese Communist Party wants to spread its influence wherever it can. Now there is reason to believe Beijing is using partnerships between local governments in the United States and China to spread lies, steal ideas, and gather information it can use against Americans. The Sister City Transparency Act shines a light on this threat and ensures we have the information we need to protect our communities from the Chinese government's spies and propagandists," said Senator Hawley.
"Communist China 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."
"The Chinese government and Communist Party has a history of exploiting cultural and economic partnerships to conduct malign activities, and it's clear that opaque, sister-city partnerships deserve increased scrutiny," Senator Rubio said. "We must do more to better understand, and then counter, Chinese influence operations at the state and local level, which are often conducted under the benign auspices of sister city relationships. I am proud to join Senator Blackburn on this legislation, and I hope our colleagues will support our efforts to provide greater transparency and diligence in preventing the CCP's efforts to exert sharp power and conduct influence operations in the U.S."
The Sister City Transparency Act Would Order a Government Accountability Office Report To:
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.
In October 2020, Senators Blackburn and Hawley demanded answers from the U.S. Conference of Mayors regarding Chinese sister city partnerships. The Senators introduced this legislation after the Conference failed to identify oversight practices for these potentially dangerous partnerships.