Dear Civil Society Partners,
I write to you from the U.S. Department of State, where I have the honor of serving as U.S. Under Secretary of State. While my time as America’s chief economic diplomat is drawing to an end this week, I am writing to you today because the matter at hand is urgent and will remain a high priority for my successor. The threat of malign influence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is one of the most passionately unifying bipartisan issues of our time. Since civil society organizations have always been leaders in exposing the world’s inequities and injustices, it is critical that you remain at the forefront of the shared effort to secure the free world against rising authoritarianism.
Citizens worldwide are waking up to the truth about the CCP’s three-prong strategy of concealment, co-option, and coercion. The CCP’s concealment of the coronavirus resulted in the COVID-19 pandemic, its co-option of Hong Kong has eviscerated the freedoms of millions, and its relentless coercion of the Uyghur people has continued in the brutal internment camps of Xinjiang. This awakening has given political will to government leaders and CEOs in free nations worldwide to stand up to this increasingly aggressive behavior.
At the U.S. Department of State, one of our primary missions is to monitor, advocate, and provide a worldwide framework for human rights, freedom, and prosperity. Your organizations are an inspiration to the world and have always been a vital partner in that mission
MULTIPLYING CIVIL SOCIETY’S IMPACT
In that same spirit of partnership, we need your leadership in confronting and strategically linking the different dimensions of risk to economic, environmental, technological, and human rights protections. Civil society’s positive impact can be multiplied by combining your actions in the social sector with efforts underway in the public, business, and education sectors. The focus of these combined efforts can be magnified further by uniting under the framework of the Clean Network and leveraging the momentum of its rapidly growing alliance of democracies, which to date represents over two-thirds of the world’s GDP.
The integration of linking the various dimensions of authoritarian risks, combining the actions of various sectors, and uniting under the global Clean Network creates a network effect that has the power to be an exponential force for good in promoting democratic principles over authoritarianism. The key to the Clean Network’s is that it provides the unity to stand in solidarity against the CCP’s abuses, intimidation, and retaliation.
After serving as the CEO of public companies and chairman of the board of Purdue University, I have learned that leadership in the face of challenges starts with the core principle of transparency. Visibility results in accountability. This is precisely where cooperative effort between the public sector, business sector, education sector, social sector, and citizenry is the most powerful force for good. I have spotlighted the gravity of the CCP’s human rights abuses in separate letters to U.S. business leaders and the governing boards of American universities, in an op-ed in The Hill, as well as by to the American people. The CCP’s brazen actions are almost hard to believe unless we present the truth as starkly and transparently as possible from every angle and to every sector. The most vulnerable are counting on us to lead, especially when it is hard, but there is strength in our numbers—and the tide is turning.
HONORING HUMAN RIGHTS
Through running economic diplomacy for the United States, I have come to learn that nowhere are the CCP’s human rights abuses more pronounced than in the Xinjiang region’s mass internment camps. Citizens, institutions, and companies must be aware of the CCP’s large-scale human rights abuses, which include forced abortion, forced sterilization, and involuntary implantation of birth control devices; forced separation of families; pervasive, high-tech arbitrary surveillance; automatic collection of personal data, including genetic information; compulsory stays by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) officials in Uyghur homes intended to prevent the observance of Islamic practices; abuse of women; forced marriage; and strict controls on expression of cultural practices and religious identities.
The abuses taking place are designed to eradicate the ethnic and religious beliefs of Uyghurs and other Muslims. The CCP aims to compel members of these minority groups to renounce their religion and cultural traditions, and embrace the ideology of the Communist Party. It then transfers millions to forced labor camps and into indentured servitude to bolster the profits of Chinese companies, including many that do business with the western world.
CLEAN SUPPLY CHAINS WITH CLEAN LABOR PRACTICES
Last year, the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security together published a Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory, a clear statement of concern for the attention of U.S. companies, institutions, investors, and their business partners around the world. This advisory urged U.S. businesses with potential supply chain and investment exposure to Xinjiang to consider the ethical, reputational, economic, and legal risks of involvement with entities that engage in human rights abuses, including forced labor in the manufacture of goods intended for domestic and international distribution.
with Clean Labor Practices have been a catalyst behind the U.S. government has adding dozens of PRC government agencies, state-owned, and notionally private corporations to its export control related to human rights abuses in Xinjiang. This light of transparency and will enable your organizations to promote partnerships only with those whose supply chains are free from human rights violations.
CLEAN PORTFOLIOS WITH CLEAN FUNDS
In letters to U.S. business leaders and the governing boards of American universities, I urged their leadership to divest from companies on the Entity List and Pentagon List that are involved with human rights abuses, the surveillance state and military-civil fusion. The boards of foundations, pension funds, financial institutions and university endowment funds have a moral obligation, and perhaps a fiduciary duty, to ensure that their institutions have clean investments and clean portfolios.
Studies show that most of these organizations own PRC stocks through emerging market index funds. To help shine the light of transparency on these funds, we published a U.S. government fact sheet entitled: U.S. Investors Are Funding Malign PRC Companies on Major Indices. I urge you to partner only with organizations that are not financing the CCP’s egregious behavior.
A CLEAN NETWORK WITH CLEAN TECHNOLOGIES
Many of these human rights abuses are enabled by Chinese companies, such as Huawei, ZTE, and others, which serve as tools of the CCP’s surveillance apparatus. That is one of the key reasons why the U.S. State Department launched the Clean Network Alliance of Democracies, a multifaceted effort to address the long-term threats to data privacy, security, and human rights posed by the CCP. The Clean Network is rooted in internationally accepted digital trust standards. It represents the execution of a multi-year, built on a growing coalition comprised of 56 Clean Countries, more than 180 Clean Telcos, and dozens of industry-leading Clean Companies around the world. Civil society serves as a crucial member of the Clean Network. We would be grateful if your organization helps us amplify the Clean Network’s message to your partners, especially national and sub-national governments and the tech sector.
CLEAN INFRASTRUCTURE WITH CLEAN FINANCING
The developing world has an enormous need for infrastructure to support its growing population and expanding middle class. The CCP provides low quality infrastructure and uses it to gain leverage and control over developing nations through its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. Through OBOR, the CCP traps countries in debt, spreads corruption by bribing local officials, ships in armies of its workers to construct the projects and leaves a trail of environmental destruction and human rights abuse in its wake.
The alternative is Clean Infrastructure through the Blue Dot Network (BDN) which was launched by the U.S., Japan, and Australia to provide high-quality infrastructure that is private sector led. This initiative is an extension of the Clean Network principles and many nations are members, including all 12 of the Three Seas Countries. Social sector organizations play a crucial role in sustainable development efforts. We ask you to spread the word about the BDN to your international partners and advocate for Clean Infrastructure principles.
CLEAN ENERGY WITH CLEAN MINERALS
The CCP is also seeking to coopt the rare earth minerals and energy resources of foreign nations to control the development of everything from lifesaving medications to lithium batteries. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCP worked to dominate pharmaceutical supply chains by monopolizing at least half of the 35 minerals identified by the United States as critical minerals. Through the (ERGI), the State Department is working to end America’s dependence on China for rare earth elements used to manufacture medical supplies, energy technology, defense instruments, and high-tech products by establishing a secure supply chain for these minerals.
The U.S. public and private sectors must work together to foster open supply chains for critical minerals and energy resources, including rare earths, cobalt, lithium, and nickel, by strengthening our relationships with source countries. By increasing its control over raw materials, China is effectively controlling the lithium-ion battery industry to become the world’s dominant advanced energy production center, which supports China’s goal to dominate the global electronic vehicle market. Civil society institutions can help secure supply chains by supporting source countries’ stability and educating the public on this issue’s high stakes.
CLEAN ENVIRONMENT WITH CLEAN INNOVATION
I recently published op-eds in Ecuador, Brazil, and other nations calling attention to the way Beijing’s hunger for economic advantage and energy resources has led to an all-out assault on the world’s environment. In the air, the PRC is by far the most extensive and fastest-growing emitter of numerous pollutants and greenhouse gases, emitting more carbon dioxide than the United States and the European Union combined. Climate change is one of the top priorities that requires a . While the PRC extols its “global leadership” in renewable energy technologies, it promises to build 1,600 coal plants in more than 62 countries under the umbrella of its One Belt, One Road initiative.
On the land, the PRC is the world’s largest consumer of illegal timber and illegal wildlife products. In western Africa, rosewood forests are being illegally denuded, almost exclusively to feed high demand in the PRC. China has long been the most significant global consumer of everything from pangolins, to tiger parts, to shark fins and rhino horns. Wildlife “wet markets” in the PRC create risks for diseases of animal origin like COVID-19. The Chinese Communist Party supports the willful disregard for air, land, and water quality. The Chinese people – and the world – deserve better.
We will need the synergistic effect of government, private, and social sectors working together to tackle climate change and demand an end to the PRC’s environmental destruction by divesting stakes in Chinese companies that contribute to ecological devastation.
CLEAN OCEANS WITH CLEAN FISHING
The PRC’s environmental abuse continues in the world’s oceans. It is the world’s biggest perpetrator of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, robbing societies of catches worth billions of dollars each year and preventing sustainable fisheries. For example, Chinese vessels threaten the fish stocks in the Galapagos Islands, a World Heritage site. The PRC is also responsible for nearly one-third of the plastic pollution clogging the world’s oceans and harming marine life. China dumped a total of 200.7 million cubic meters of waste into its coastal waters in 2018, a 27% rise on the previous year and the highest level in at least a decade. Factories in mainland China are also able to discharge their wastewater into lakes and rivers freely. The health impact is so dire that rural villages near factory complexes have become known as “cancer villages.”
My portfolio as Under Secretary of State includes protecting the world’s oceans—and as the father of a marine biologist, this issue is personal to me. That’s why I have called on international and private sector partners in multiple fora, including at the Ocean Conference in Oslo, to demand an end to the PRC’s war on marine life. Civil society partners have the power to affect change in this regard by investing in marine preservation and calling attention to the PRC’s destructive actions.
CLEAN STANDARDS WITH CLEAN PRINCIPLES
The Clean Network builds on a collection of Clean Standards and Clean Principles that form the basis for trusted collaboration across all technology sectors. The CCP too often conducts its affairs in direct violation of each of these principles, which is why nations, companies, and citizens cannot trust the CCP to fulfill its promises or stand by its word. And without trust, you have nothing.
Clean Principles include acting with the utmost integrity in our business dealings; operating with full transparency; following all relevant laws, rules, and regulations; respecting property rights of all kinds; honoring reciprocity in all that we do; prioritizing the health, safety, and rights of workers; respecting human rights in all of our business relationships; honoring the sovereignty of nations and never using fear or undue influence to gain an advantage; treating planet Earth with respect; scrupulously protecting the privacy rights of all citizens; and championing democracy, liberty, and freedom. Without these Clean Standards and Principles, there can never be true economic prosperity for all. I ask that you continue to exemplify these principles in your conduct around the world and amplify your efforts to increase their adoption by all international partners.
CLEAN GOVERNANCE WITH CLEAN VALUES
The above principles and priorities deserve to be institutionalized by the private and social sectors in the United States. Not long ago, these values were common sense, are now under sustained assault worldwide, mainly by the Chinese Communist Party. That is why the boards of directors for all civil society and private sector institutions should institutionalize and document their support for human rights, their opposition to military-civil fusion, and their commitment to Clean Principles such as trust, transparency, reciprocity, respect for the rule of law, respect for the environment, and respect for property of all kinds. As I said in my letters to all U.S. Businesses and Universities, “your boards of directors have a duty to establish governance principles when it comes to investing or dealing with entities that directly or indirectly facilitate human rights abuses.” Your organizations have the ability to codify clean values into governance principles that will serve as an example to others throughout the world.
CLEAN ACTION WITH CIVIL SOCIETY’S POWERFUL VOICE
We need your help to spread the message about the CCP’s widespread human rights abuses and environmental degradation. You are powerful force multipliers for America’s positive impact around the world. The American social sector sets a compelling example for the in the Clean Network. You shine the light of freedom and liberty in dark corners of the world. The social sector can help lead the public sector, business sector, education sector, and Americans in a joint effort to promote democratic principles and values as an alternative to authoritarianism.
You can convince businesses and the public that rejecting any involvement in or association with the PRC’s human rights abuses and environmental destruction is the right thing to do. You can help companies that do business anywhere in China understand the risks they face in conducting commerce or investing with companies that enable or perpetuate the PRC’s human rights abuses. Ask their boards to analyze their supply chains and investments. Call on consumers to act through their purchasing and investments. Shine a light on the PRC’s digital surveillance practices and expose destructive environmental activities in China and worldwide.
I applaud the excellent work you are already doing and urge you to work with us to ensure an end to the CCP’s oppression in Xinjiang and the damage it inflicts every day on our planet, , and fundamental rights.
My experience in the business, education, and government sectors tells me that there is tremendous power in uniting those sectors as a force for good if we are all armed with the truth. The world is , and the integrity of our democracy and educational institutions is in our hands. Whether in the public sector, private sector, or as an everyday citizen, I look forward to continuing to work together to protect the freedoms we all hold dear.
With respect and appreciation,
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment