After the astounding national security breach last week in which a Chinese espionage balloon flew unimpeded across the United States, it is now time to reassess our very open relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

The balloon incident calls for a stark change in foreign policy by the Biden Administration. But in the meantime, Georgia officials can set their own boundaries to make sure this Communist country isn’t endangering citizens.

During the past two years I served as United States’ business representative to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). What was very clear during those meetings was China has an aggressive economic agenda that threaten citizens in places like the United States – including Georgia.

While the federal government fails to protect the border both in the South and in our skies, the state of Georgia can take protective steps to protect itself from Chinese damage being inflicted on our economic, intellectual and human capital.

The General Assembly, the Board of Regents and the state executive branch should each request an audit of state agencies and departments to make sure no Chinese funds have been invested in our state or local governments and their properties. In addition, no Chinese endowments, research grants or education centers should be allowed at public universities in any form as the State Department has deemed them propaganda efforts.

In a 2020 speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Chinese spies have been infiltrating universities and research centers and many through education cooperatives. In addition, Georgia companies are falling victim to theft in business deals that turned into larceny by the Chinese government.

The state Attorney General should also ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to probe Georgia’s public and private colleges and universities as well as technical schools for potential Chinese spies or spying rings. If the GBI can’t handle this then the state should request the nation’s intelligence agencies for assistance. This is especially important at high-tech campuses like Georgia Tech or agriculture and medical training centers like the University of Georgia or Augusta University where engineering and product research and secrecy is important.

State and local officials including the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Legislature must also re-evaluate the value of tax incentives for electric vehicles and solar panels as they currently hurt the American energy industry and empower Communist China. Electric cars, for example, need to run on batteries which are almost exclusively sourced at this time from cobalt controlled from Chinese mines across the globe.

Finally, the number of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths continues to skyrocket in Georgia just as it is across the nation, and China is the manufacturer of this deadly drug sold and abused on the streets. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, from May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 there was a 106.2 percent increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Georgia compared to the same period the previous year. With more than 100,000 deaths nationwide that year, fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for adults ages 18-45, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

With a healthy budget surplus, the Georgia Legislature should empower the GBI and Georgia State Patrol to hire more personnel to hunt down those trafficking street fentanyl along our interstates. This is a security risk that is costing lives of too many sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.

The Chinese spy balloon has become the Sputnik moment of our generation. It should be a wakeup call to all Americans and certainly Georgians that we must be on guard against an enemy not only willing to steal our military and proprietary business secrets but one that is willing to kill tens of thousands of Americans with no remorse. And that doesn’t even take into account the COVID-19 virus which originated in Wuhan. It’s time all Georgians wake up to the importance of putting America first and become aware that Communist China is not our friend.

Burkhalter, the former Georgia Speaker of the House, just finished serving as the United States Representative to the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC). He was President Trump’s nominee as Ambassador to Norway.


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