Iowa’s Legislators Should Prohibit All State Spending on China Tech, Not Just Educational Funds

“Mr. Chew has a long way to go before any of us are convinced that TikTok isn’t feeding data to the CCP,” Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said on March 23 during the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s questioning of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. She has good reason to be concerned. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds banned TikTok on state devices late last year. But, Iowans should also worry about the $1,834,509 spent on dangerous Chinese technology from Lexmark and Lenovo, as uncovered by China Tech Threat (CTT).

CTT’s analysis reveals purchases of this risky technology by the Judicial Branch, the Department of Transportation, community colleges and sheriffs’ offices, as outlined in CTT’s Iowa fact sheet. And, like TikTok, China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law obligates Lexmark and Lenovo to cooperate with any Chinese government directive to hand over information in their possession, making Iowa’s sensitive judicial, administrative, security and public transit information vulnerable to Chinese surveillance.

Our federal government recognizes these security risks and has restricted U.S. military and intelligence agencies from using technology from these manufacturers due to its connection to the Chinese government and military. (Read more about Lexmark, Lenovo and three other dangerous Chinese government-owned tech manufacturers in our February briefing paper.) 

Iowa’s legislators are recognizing the perils of this technology as well. State Rep. Henry Stone introduced HF 181 which is currently in the IA House and a successor to HSB 41, prohibiting the state Board of Regents, which governs Iowa’s public educational institutions, from investing public money in companies that are owned or controlled by China’s military or government. 

This is progress, but more legislation is needed. Iowa should follow the lead of legislators in nearly a dozen states taking action to ban state agencies from purchasing and deploying Chinese technology to prevent the exposure of government and citizens’ sensitive information to the Chinese government, including South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem who just signed SB 189 into law in March and Idaho Governor Brad Little who signed HB 294 at the beginning of April. CTT will continue to monitor Iowa’s efforts.