China is Exploiting the Coronavirus It Created

The following guest commentary was written by U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, who represents Michigan 1st Congressional District.

For over three months, our country has endured an unprecedented economic and health crisis as the result of the coronavirus pandemic. Over 100,000 lives have been lost, while millions have lost their jobs—and often their businesses—because of the restrictions on social interaction imposed by our public health authorities. To keep the economy afloat and to help millions of newly unemployed Americans keep body and soul together, our federal government has spent trillions, significantly adding to an already-unsustainable national debt. To say this crisis has been costly to the United States is the understatement of the 21st century.

It’s now abundantly clear that the dictatorial thugs who rule communist China are primarily responsible for the depth and devastation of this crisis. Each day, more revelations expose these bad actors — from their misinformation campaign about the supposed difficulty of transmitting the virus, to the blatant deceit regarding timelines (it’s now evident that Beijing was aware of the outbreak much earlier than they originally admitted). The Chinese government suppressed and destroyed information from their own researchers and doctors on the front lines and then quickly swooped in to try to corner the market in personal protective equipment essential to front line health care workers — putting millions of lives at further risk.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Chinese government is leading a sophisticated and extensive cyberattack effort against U.S. hospitals, research labs, and health care institutions — seizing on the coronavirus pandemic to victimize the U.S. government, state governments, private entities, and countless individuals.

These attacks are inflicting untold damage to national security, our efforts to combat the virus, and the financial well-being of millions of Americans.

This is nothing new. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in foreign-sponsored cyberattacks, and Americans have dealt first-hand with the consequences. We’ve seen Russian-backed cyberattacks against everyone from American military spouses to the DNC, North Korean hacks and blackmail against Sony Pictures, and China’s cyberattack on the Office of Personnel Management, which involved the theft of the personal data of over 22 million people.

Now is not the time to leave American hospitals and our first responders vulnerable to cyberattacks. Yet, the Foreign Sovereignty Immunities Act (FSIA) currently shields foreign state actors from American lawsuits, protecting them from any form of accountability. Without accountability, these actors have no deterrent as they prey on the American government, businesses, and individuals -and inevitably undermine our fight against the coronavirus.

Fortunately, Congress has the means to address this crisis by enacting the HACT Act, before more damage is done to our national security. With over 60 bipartisan cosponsors this legislation I’ve introduced is building momentum as the most viable means of addressing the epidemic of foreign-sponsored hacking of American citizens and institutions.

The Trump Administration supports immediate Congressional action to address the growing cyber-threat (Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 4189 when he served in Congress).

Recent urgent alerts from both the FBI and DHS warn of the ongoing threat from Chinese backed hackers and spies working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus.

These warnings highlight the urgent need to pass H.R. 4189, the HACT Act.

This legislation should be incorporated into the next Coronavirus relief bill and implemented immediately as an essential national security measure to protect the United States government, our health care system, and American citizens from ongoing cyber-threats.


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