If I walked into Byron’s Smokehouse in Auburn and asked folks if they’d want their retirement savings invested in Chinese companies, I’d get laughed out of the restaurant. So why would we allow the federal Thrift Savings Plan, which serves approximately 6 million government employees and retirees, including military veterans, to do just that?
The board that governs the TSP wants to invest a considerable portion of its more than $700 billion in assets in companies with direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party. President Trump stopped that move from going into effect last year, but with a new president in office, the order blocking the board’s decision no longer carries weight.
Congressional action is needed to provide a permanent solution, rather than relying on the whims of executive action. That’s why I am introducing the Prohibiting TSP Investment in China Act. This bill would bar TSP funds from being invested in any security of an entity based in China or in a subsidiary that is owned or operated by a Chinese company.
Blocking investment of federal retirement savings in Chinese companies is good for U.S. national security and good for investors. We shouldn’t be funneling capital to firms that routinely violate U.S. sanctions laws and actively enable the Chinese Communist Party’s military expansion and persecution of religious minorities. Chinese companies have a long history of putting investors at serious risk by manipulating financial reporting statements and failing to comply with basic audit standards to artificially inflate their performance.
The Luckin Coffee incident is a prime example. The Securities and Exchange Commission found that Luckin, the largest coffee chain in China, defrauded U.S. investors by lying about the firm’s performance and inflating retail sales by more than $300 million. Luckin settled with the SEC by agreeing to pay a $180 million fine, but Americans who invested their retirement savings in funds exposed to Luckin’s deception lost millions.
China-based companies whose stock is traded on U.S. exchanges are prohibited by Beijing from complying with U.S. securities and financial-reporting standards. The Chinese government also blocks U.S. regulators at the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board from conducting standard inspections of the Chinese offices of international audit firms. Congress put investor protections in place for a reason. If a company is not in compliance, investors are at risk.
China’s refusal to allow its companies to comply with basic investor safeguards is cause enough to prohibit the investment of government-employee retirement funds in Chinese firms, but there are additional reasons to take pause.
Chinese contractors are supplying Beijing’s military buildup, enabling aggressive action in the South China Sea and toward land-based neighbors like Vietnam and India. These firms also supply the Chinese government with equipment used to spy on its citizens and commit genocide against religious minorities, like the Uyghurs of Xinjiang province. Not a single U.S. dollar should contribute to the Communist Party’s continuing human-rights abuses.
The American people recognize the economic and military threat China poses to the United States. The Prohibiting TSP Investment in China Act would advance our national-security interests and restrict funds from flowing to firms beholden to China’s communist regime.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees. He can be reached at (202) 224-4124, on his website at tuberville.senate.gov, on Facebook at Senator Tuberville, Twitter @SenTuberville or by mailing him at Dirksen Senate Office Building, Suite B40A, Washington, DC 20510.