By Philip Lenczyki
A provincial Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary set up a talent recruitment “work station” at the Silicon Valley headquarters of a Chinese-owned company that is planning to build two taxpayer-backed battery plants in Michigan, according to Chinese language reports reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
In 2017, a CCP delegation from Hefei, Anhui province visited the Fremont, Calif., headquarters of Gotion Inc., according to Chinese-language news website Sohu.com. During the visit, the Anhui party secretary leading the delegation “presided over the establishment of an Overseas Talent Work Station” in Gotion’s U.S. headquarters, another report published on the website of the firm’s Chinese parent company states.
Hefei city government officials sought to use “Overseas Talent Work Stations” to attract experts from the U.S. and Europe to work in Anhui Province, according to a Hefei CCP Committee policy paper released the same month as the delegation’s visit.
“China’s talent plans are showing no signs of letting up,” Ina Mitchell, a Canadian investigative reporter who’s written extensively about Chinese influence and espionage operations, told the DCNF. “It’s a brain drain game and a danger to America’s national security and economic health.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Video Shows Employees At Chinese Firm Behind US Battery Plant Builder Wearing Red Army Outfits, Pledging Life To CCP)
Gotion Inc. plans on building two electric vehicle battery plants in Big Rapids, Michigan. The project has support from Michigan Democrats, and it’s in line to benefit from $715 million in state subsidies. Many Republicans have come out against the project over Gotion Inc.’s ties to the CCP through its Hefei, China-based parent company Gotion High-Tech.
The DCNF recently reported that Gotion High-Tech employs 923 CCP members, including its CEO Li Zhen, who is also the party secretary for the firm’s CCP committee. Under Li Zhen’s leadership, Gotion High-Tech has run multiple company field trips during which employees dressed as Red Army soldiers and pledged allegiance to the CCP, the DCNF found.
Politico recently reported that Chuck Thelen, the vice president of North American manufacturing at Gotion Inc. — which is “wholly owned and controlled” by Gotion High-Tech, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing — said that “the Chinese Communist Party has no presence in the North American company.”
“The rumors that you’ve heard about us bringing communism to North America are just flat-out fear-mongering and really have nothing based in reality,” Thelen said, according to Politico.
‘Talent Recruitment Work’
On June 6, 2017, Li Jinbin, who was then serving as the Anhui provincial CCP party secretary, led a Chinese government delegation to Gotion Inc.’s Fremont, California headquarters, according to Sohu.com. Both Gotion High-Tech’s CEO Li Zhen, who is a CCP member, and his son, Gotion Inc. CEO Li Chen, met with the Chinese government delegation, photos on Gotion High-Tech’s website show.
“Comrade Li Jinbin, party secretary of the Anhui Province CCP committee, personally led a delegation to visit the U.S. Gotion High-Tech Silicon Valley Research Institute to guide their work,” Gotion High-Tech’s website states, using the firm’s name for its U.S.-based subsidiary.
“Li Jinbin earnestly encouraged the institute to make the most out of its location in Silicon Valley with a concentration of talented people, gather innovative superiority, as well as an excellent research team to propel Gotion’s technological research to the forefront of the world,” reads the report on Gotion High-Tech’s website. “Secretary Li also presided over the establishment of the Anhui Overseas Talent Work Station at Gotion’s Silicon Valley Research Institute, which will rely on Gotion’s perch in Silicon Valley to carry out Anhui province’s talent recruitment work.”
To commemorate the station’s opening, Li Jinbin unveiled a gold plaque with Chinese characters reading “Anhui Overseas Talent Work Station,” footage from Anhui Television shows. Likewise, photos accompanying a Sohu.com report show Gotion High-Tech’s CEO Li Zhen standing with the CCP delegation beside the gold plaque.
‘Serve The Motherland’
A little over a week after the CCP delegation established an Overseas Talent Work Station within Gotion Inc.’s U.S. headquarters, the Hefei CCP Committee released a policy paper entitled “An Opinion Concerning The Construction Of The Hefei Comprehensive National Science Center And Talent Work For Creating An Innovation Capital” on June 19, 2017.
“It is critical to obtain talent and create an innovation capital wielding international influence in order to hasten the construction of the Hefei Comprehensive National Science Center,” the first sentence of the June 2017 Hefei policy paper declares.
The National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology first announced the Hefei Comprehensive National Science Center project in January 2017, according to a report from the University of Science and Technology of China, which is one of the center’s primary sponsors. The Hefei science center now houses multiple research institutes focused on quantum science, nuclear fusion and other technologies, according to the university’s report.
The June 2017 Hefei policy paper states that the local government will provide financial subsidies to Hefei companies that establish Overseas Talent Work Stations in order to recruit certain professionals.
“Encourage our city’s enterprise work units, talent intermediaries and individuals to introduce and recommend talents,” the Hefei policy paper states. “Promote the construction of Overseas Talent Work Stations; adopt a contractual management model; establish around 10 Overseas Talent Work Stations in batches in North America, Europe and other developed countries and regions; and provide fixed subsidies for those units who complete the task.”
The same June 2017 Hefei government policy paper also states the city would award Thousand Talents Plan experts a roughly $136,000 subsidy to work in the city, indicating this effort was part of China’s sweeping talent recruitment initiative.
China began the Thousand Talents Plan in 2008, and has since used lavish funding to lure thousands of scientists, academics and researchers to relocate to China, according to the New York Times. A press release put out this April by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts said: “China’s Thousand Talents Plan was one of the most prominent Chinese talent recruitment plans designed to attract, recruit and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific, development, economic prosperity and national security.”
‘Nationalist Feeling In Their Bones’
The same day that CCP officials visited Gotion Inc.’s U.S. headquarters in June 2017, news footage from Anhui Television shows that Gotion High-Tech’s CEO Li Zhen attended a “High-Level Talents Symposium” with the CCP delegation. Over 120 “high-tech talents” from universities and businesses in the San Francisco area participated in the symposium — approximately 70 of whom were also alumni of the University of Science and Technology of China — according to a report on that university’s website.
During the symposium, Anhui’s CCP secretary Li Jinbin encouraged audience members to return to Anhui to serve as experts, according to the University of Science and Technology of China’s report.
“Today everyone has learned that it is an opportune time to serve the motherland and build up our hometown,” Li Jinbin said, according to the Chinese university’s report. “The people of Anhui are just like Mt. Huang’s Greeting Pine, with arms opened wide, warmly welcoming all talents to Anhui to innovate.”
In 2018, Li Jinbin announced that 25 new experts of the Thousand Talents Plan had been added the previous year after Hefei began building Overseas Talent Work Stations, according to Chinese state-run media outlet People’s Daily.
Gotion and Gotion High-Tech did not respond to multiple requests for comment.