Panetta Warns Of Chinese Espionage Risk In Michigan Plant

During a House Select Committee hearing on the Chinese Communist Party’s support for America’s adversaries, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta raised concerns about a proposed electric vehicle battery plant in Michigan potentially being exploited for Chinese espionage.

Responding to Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI), Panetta affirmed the possibility of China utilizing the plant, developed by a subsidiary of the China-based firm Gotion High-Tech, for espionage purposes.

Panetta said, “I don’t think there’s any question that they’re going to take advantage of that situation. And I think we have to be very vigilant about what the hell is going on. That’s just the way they operate. They’ll establish a manufacturing unit, they’ll establish whatever they can and then they will use that for their own intelligence purposes. They will use that for their own economic purposes.”

He added, “They’ll use it to be able to gain the kind of advantages that are counter, frankly, to the interests of the United States. I think it is very important in those situations to make sure that the United States, and that our intelligence capabilities are being used to make sure that we know what they are doing that could hurt the United States.”

In addition to Panetta, former CIA Director, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also testified during the hearing, expressing their shared belief that the Gotion facility in Michigan posed national security risks and should not proceed with construction.

Pompeo said, “I think it is worse than the fact that they will engage in espionage. I think that’s just top of the list. They will use this in ways that will leverage Chinese advantage. These plants are deeply dangerous to our national security and ought not be built.”

In October 2022, Gotion, in collaboration with Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, disclosed their agreement to invest $2.4 billion in constructing two 550,000-square-foot production plants and related facilities covering 260 acres in Mecosta County, Michigan. Several months afterward, a leading Michigan Senate panel, led by Democrats, cast a narrow 10-9 vote in favor of granting $175 million in taxpayer funding for the project.

As a component of the arrangement, Gotion acquired extensive acreage in August, encompassing areas designated for industrial, residential, and agricultural purposes. Moreover, according to Moolenaar, the company is projected to bring in a minimum of 20 Chinese individuals to serve at the facility.

Subsequently, in September, Gotion unveiled plans for a second facility to be established in Illinois, with an estimated cost of $2 billion. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity revealed that the entire incentive package provided by state taxpayers for Gotion’s project amounts to $536 million.