BROOKSVILLE — The Chinese Communist Party poses a threat to America, to Florida, to our military and to our freedoms, Gov. Ron DeSantis said May 8 at an event at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. 

Before a supportive crowd of mostly Republican backers and representatives of Taiwan, the governor signed three bills that he said would do what the administration of President Joe Biden is failing to do, and criticized past leaders of both parties for their naiveté when dealing with the Chinese communists. 

“Elites” let us down, thinking that bringing Communist China out of its shell would make it more democratic, DeSantis said. “In reality, China got much richer, they created a massive industrial base and they used that to fuel more military and really to fortify CCP’s ambitions.”

The result in the U.S. has been closed factories, wrecked economic lives and threats to our national security, DeSantis said. 

“You have unfair trade, and not free trade with China,” he said.

Just as Florida is where “woke goes to die,” the governor said, Florida is where Chinese Communist influence goes to die. 

Sounding more like a presidential candidate than the governor of a state, though he made no mention of presidential aspirations, he vowed that the Chinese communists would not be able to threaten U.S. technology, the food supply or national security. 

The bills, according to a press release, are: 

SB 264: Interests of Foreign Countries — “Restricts governmental entities from contracting with foreign countries and entities of concern and restricts conveyances of agricultural lands and other interests in real property to foreign principals, the People’s Republic of China, and other entities and persons that are affiliated with them. It also amends certain electronic health record statutes to ensure that health records are physically stored in the continental U.S., U.S. territories, or Canada.” 

SB 846: Agreements of Educational Entities with Foreign Entities — “Prohibits state colleges and universities and their employees and representatives from soliciting or accepting any gift in their official capacities from a college or university based in a foreign country of concern. It also prohibits state colleges and universities from accepting any grant from or participating in any agreement or partnership with any college or university based in a foreign country of concern.” 

SB 258: Bans TikTok on government-issued devices. DeSantis said parents should be aware that while use of TikTok and other “dangerous applications” by children might seem to be safe, the owner of TikTok and other such applications is gathering information on U.S. citizens to compromise national security and privacy. Access is to be blocked on government and educational institute servers, too. 

The “foreign countries of concern” include “the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro and the Syrian Arab Republic, including any agency of or any other entity under significant control of such foreign country of concern.” 

“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat— the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said. “I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents, to stop sensitive digital data from being stored in China, and to stop CCP influence in our education system from grade school to grad school. We are following through on our commitment to crack down on Communist China.” 

He and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said China is buying farmland and could eventually gain control of the national food supply.  

“Food security is national security, and we have a responsibility to ensure Floridians have access to a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply,"Simpson said. "China and other hostile foreign nations control hundreds of thousands of acres of critical agricultural lands in the U.S., leaving our food supply and our national security interests at risk. Restricting China and other hostile foreign nations from controlling Florida’s agricultural land and lands near critical infrastructure facilities protects our state, provides long-term stability, and preserves our economic freedom.” 

China’s influence and power are growing, DeSantis warned, and it’s working to become more influential in the U.S. through “police stations” in American cities. 

DeSantis unleashed a stream of criticism at the Biden administration for what he said were failures at the border with Mexico, the spread of fentanyl and inflation. 

The state government takes the security of the state very seriously, he said. 

“There is a lot that the federal government needs to do, of course, and that goes for our border, which is a total disaster and is going to get worse this week; and that goes to having a strong military. It goes to protecting Americans from China’s influence in the economy; and make sure we have more economic self-sufficiency,” DeSantis said. “There’s a lot that’s been derelict over the years with that, and I think that what we can tell Floridians is that we’re getting ahead of things. As you start to see what the CCP is doing with the farmland, we reacted very quickly.” 

This legislation is the strongest in the county, he said, adding that people instinctively realize that “when you have a ruling junta dedicated to Communist ideology like the CCP, that’s not someone you want in your backyard, and that’s not someone that’s going to be productive operating in the state of Florida. 

“And so today, we say, ‘No,’” he said. “It’s not going to happen here, and I hope all states follow suit and follow Florida’s lead.”

GOP support

DeSantis got repeated applause for his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and the Biden Administration, but also took shots at the World Health Organization and vowed to end its influence as well in the “free state of Florida.”

Jerry Blankenship, retired, of Hudson liked what he heard from the governor.

“I thought it was interesting,” he said. “I’ve never really heard him or followed him.”

He said he just came from the South Pacific, and said the island nations see mainland China as a big threat.

“They’re trying to figure out why the U.S. hasn’t caught up,” Blankenship said. 

DeSantis might not be looking at a presidential run, but Blankenship said the governor is “sticking his name out.” If thing don’t look good, Blankenship said, DeSantis won’t run.

Kathleen Reid of Pasco County said DeSantis is an intelligent man who has a good grip on issues, not just Florida but national and international.

“Yes, it can be,” Reid said when asked if she thought China was a big threat to the U.S.

“They’ve bought up a heck of a lot of farmland in the Midwest,” she said. “If you cut off our food supply, he’s right. Most people don’t keep big stockpiles of food.”

He’s not elevating his profile for a presidential run, Reid said, because he has young children.

County Commissioner Steve Champion said he thought the governor did a “fantastic job.”

Champion said he didn’t want to guess about what DeSantis had in mind, but some of it might be wanting to elevate his stature.

“Obviously, he’s the second-leading man in the Republican Party for the presidential run. I think he would do a good job, or Donald Trump,” he said. 

DeSantis is delivering for the state, Champion said.

“I believe in what he was talking about,” the commissioner said. “I think the crowd was sympathetic to it, obviously.”