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China a potential issue in Michigan U.S. Senate race

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Foreign policy is an infrequent subject in U.S. Senate campaigns. In Michigan’s Senate election, however, tough talk on the Chinese Communist Party is growing on the campaign trail.

Michigan, a key swing state in 2024’s general elections, will vote this year to elect a successor to retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Though the primary election is Aug. 6, the race has crystallized around Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin and former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers – the leading candidates for their parties’ nominations – who have both attacked the CCP with a frequency unusual among this year’s Senate campaigns.

“The decisions of Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party will have far greater impact than those of Washington. The hands of the president and Congress are tied; their powers circumscribed by Beijing’s actions on the international stage,” Rogers wrote on his campaign website. “[This] means taking a much closer look at investments, apps, and technology from China and being unafraid to use the powers of government to protect the American people.”

Rogers has accused Slotkin of dealings with a Chinese-connected battery manufacturer Gotion, that has been cited by Congress for allegedly using the “slave labor” of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province. Slotkin in 2023 signed a non-disclosure agreement with the company to discuss its plan to build an electric vehicle battery plant in Michigan, according to Fox News.

“It’s outrageous that @ElissaSlotkin signed a secret agreement to help dole out billions of taxpayer dollars to these Chinese companies,” Rogers wrote on Twitter in June. Slotkin has reportedly declined to comment on the NDA, Fox reported.

Slotkin, meanwhile, has focused her CCP-related advocacy on the perceived threat of Chinese-made vehicles in the state.

“This idea of Chinese connected vehicles – autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, trucks, autonomous trucks – coming into the United States is no longer a fantasy. It is no longer the stuff of science fiction,” Slotkin said in May. “It has become my new mission to put up national security hurdles to those vehicles entering the United States. We cannot let them get a foothold in the United States.”

Slotkin, in June, introduced legislation in the House that would permit the Department of Commerce to block the sale of “connected vehicles” built by Chinese companies. It was the latest of several bills targeting Chinese business deals that she has introduced this year.

Manufacturing, particularly of automobiles, is a sensitive topic in Michigan, which has long been the home of the U.S. automobile industry and many of its unionized workers. Competition from China in vehicle manufacturing is a key undertone to Slotkin’s rhetoric, with her website promising that she will “bring critical supply chains and manufacturing back home.”

Both Rogers and Slotkin have cited their national security work experience to bolster their credentials on combatting China.

Rogers began his career as a U.S. Army officer and FBI agent before serving in Congress for 14 years, including four years as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies and activities. “Mike made his greatest mark in Congress through his service as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He was among the first to sound the alarm on the economic and national security danger posed by China,” Rogers’ website reads.

Slotkin, meanwhile, has touted her service as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst, which involved three tours in Iraq and service at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. During the Obama administration, she was the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

Michigan’s race is one of several battleground Senate elections this year. Polls show Slotkin leading Rogers in a hypothetical general election matchup.

Slotkin and Rogers’ campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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