DeSantis announces measures to combat ‘influence’ from China in tech, universities

By: - September 22, 2022 4:59 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to prevent the People’s Republic of China from gaining undue influence. Credit: Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to extend previous efforts to limit the “influence” from China regarding data access and funding through proposed legislation and a new executive order.

During a press conference at Miami-Dade College Thursday, DeSantis said the executive order would “prohibit government entities from procuring technology commodities and services from companies owned by controlled by or domiciled in foreign countries of concern — which includes China.”

“It also includes Iran, Russia, Cuba, and other types of regimes that are hostile to American interests,” DeSantis said.

In addition, the governor offered legislative proposals for the 2023 session starting in March. He is currently on the campaign trail for reelection in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

While the Florida Legislature will have to craft and pass the bill during the 60-day session, DeSantis suggested a variety of measures towards his end to “stop CCP influence,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

For one, he wants to prohibit state and local government from contracting with companies with strong connections to China and other “foreign countries of concern” if the contract provides access to Floridians’ personal information.

His legislative proposals would prohibit Chinese interests from purchasing agricultural land near U.S. military bases, which he suggested could pose a national security concern regarding military intelligence and control over food supply.

His last major legislative proposal involves Florida’s higher education system. He suggested prohibiting universities from “receiving gifts” from an individual or entity affiliated with China or other countries of concern.

The GOP-controlled Legislature tends to work towards helping DeSantis achieve his political goals, so it is likely that a form of these proposals will be discussed or even passed in the 2023 legislative session, assuming DeSantis wins reelection.

‘Foreign influence’

He was joined by Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., a handful of South Florida Republican lawmakers, and representatives of the local Taiwanese community.

“As we know, our academic institutions are part of our entire society. And the students that leave our schools go into society in all walks of life,” Diaz said.

“When you have this foreign influence inside of our academic schools, not only does it affect technology, property rights, all of those things — but what happens is these people go out into our society. And if you allow for our enemies to come in here and influence our students, who then become the members of our society, what happens is they insert their propaganda and they start to create hate and divide,” he continued.

The DeSantis administration has previously attempted to limit foreign influence through legislative action, with particular emphasis on China. Bills passed during the 2021 legislative session increased penalties for for corporate and university espionage and require reporting by institutes of higher education of overseas gifts of $50,000 or more.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.