The James Madison Institute – Florida’s top think tank – hosted their annual Tech Summit in Miami with a dozen distinguished speakers including Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. To address the growing China Tech Threat, Dr. Roslyn Layton was joined by Georgia Rep. Martin Momtahan and Florida Rep. Randy Fine.
Dr. Layton set the tone, explaining that the separation of federal and state governments, while a prized feature of American governance, creates an opportunity for our adversaries. Recent stories in Fox News and the Associated Press demonstrate that the Chinese Community Party actively targets state and local American legislators and has already successfully hacked six state governments.
Rep. Fine, a former Harvard economics instructor, cautioned that national security interests have been ignored as a factor in pricing technology products. “I taught my students that you need to include the cost of externalities when pricing products. Now we know that a new externality is national security; that now needs to be included in the cost.”
Consequently, Dr. Layton argued that state governmentsmust avoid technology from companies owned by the Chinese government and instead look for products from firms in based in the United States and other democratic countries. She expressly noted the jeopardy of purchasing Lenovo laptops, Lexmark printers, DJI drones and Hikvision cameras.
As he did with the Georgia legislature and at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Rep. Momtahan discussed his professional background in IT – in helping him understand how technology is manipulated to steal IP and other secrets. His experience led Rep. Momtahan to spearhead Georgia Senate Bill 346 – signed by Governor Kemp in May – which prohibits purchase of technology from manufacturers owned by the People’s Republic of China. Rep. Momtahan led the effort for ALEC to pass model legislation based on his law.
Both lawmakers were asked to square their support for free trade policies with their efforts to constrain China. Rep. Momtahan explained, “Free trade doesn’t mean you trade for free. We need to set boundaries with our trading partners. We can’t allow China to steal our intellectual property.” Rep. Fine agreed, adding “We haven’t had free trade, but we’re moving toward that” and pointed to Adam Smith’s assertion that private property rights are necessary for markets to work properly.
Rep. Fine concluded, “The United States was not reliant on Germany for products during World War II or the Soviet Union during the Cold War and should not be reliant on China now. We may not think we are at war with China, but they think they are at war with us.”
Check back soon for video highlights from the JMI panel.