Between 2015 and 2019, China was Georgia’s largest international trading partner, making up 15 to 20 percent of its total international trade.
Recent controversy over the results of the presidential election in the swing state of Georgia have brought the state’s Republican governor Brian Kemp into focus, with detractors calling out his apparently close business ties with Communist China.
In remarks made this February to the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called attention to a report by a Chinese state-backed think tank. The report categorized the attitudes of all 50 U.S. state governors, categorizing them as “friendly,” “hardline,” or “ambiguous.”
According to the report, Brian Kemp was tough on China since he expressed supportive for President Donald Trump’s confrontational trade policies toward Beijing. However, the think tank qualified this assessment, saying that state governors trended towards being more lax with upholding the White House’s stance on China, as they appear “not clearly influenced by the parties.”
China business ties
Between 2015 and 2019, China was Georgia’s largest international trading partner, making up 15 to 20 percent of its total international trade volume.
There are many links between organizations and companies in the state to Chinese counterparts, which are directly or indirectly under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Kemp, who previously served as the Secretary of State of Georgia, has maintained friendly ties with Chinese dignitaries since taking office in January 2019. In 2020, when he was serving in that position, Kemp had visited the Chinese Consulate in Houston to meet with high-ranking Chinese officials. The consulate was in July forced to close by the U.S. government because of its alleged use as a base for CCP spies.
Kemp had also made a promotional video on Georgia’s business opportunities, welcoming “thousands of Chinese visitors every year to the Peach State.”
In April last year, Li Qiangmin, then Chinese consul-general in Houston, was invited to an event hosted by Kemp, where Li praised the governor for “proactively pushing for cooperation with China,” according to a press release by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In July 2019, when Li was due to return to China after a five-year stint, Li met with Kemp again and invited him to visit China, “stressing the importance of building friendly China-U.S. relationship,” according to China Tribune, a pro-Beijing Chinese outlet based in Atlanta. After the meeting, Kemp gifted Li a book titled “Inspired Georgia,” with a handwritten note expressing appreciation for Li’s “great service and for your friendship to the state of Georgia,” according to the news report. The article has since been taken down.
Mike Pompeo has warned U.S. policymakers from state to municipal levels to be vigilant about Beijing’s “influence and espionage activities,” cautioning that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers them “weak links” to exploit for advancing its interests.
President Trump has harshly criticized Kemp for certifying the state’s election results, repeatedly failing to review the numerous election fraud allegations and evidence. The president described him as a RINO, or “Republican In Name Only,” in a Dec. 12 tweet.
Trump wrote that Kemp, along with Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey, “fought against me and the Republican Party harder than any Democrat,” and “allowed states that I won easily to be stolen.”