WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate has introduced a bill that essentially would bar leading global train maker CRRC from delivering subway cars to the nation's capital, a move that threatens to widen the American pressure campaign against Chinese enterprises.
Four Democratic senators representing states surrounding Washington submitted a funding bill Thursday to address the metropolitan region's transportation needs for the next decade. One provision would forbid the D.C. Metro system from awarding a contract for railway cars to any manufacturer owned by or financially related to a "nonmarket economy country."
Though the bill did not name any company, such a description would apply to China's CRRC.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, together with their colleagues from Maryland, Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, held a news conference Thursday in front of a Metro station arguing that Chinese-made trains pose a security risk.
If the bill passes, the restriction likely would not take effect until after the Metro -- formally known as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority -- conducts bidding on new subway cars, a contract worth more than $1 billion. But Warner said the agency understands the concerns coming from Congress.
These concerns are held across party lines. U.S. House member Rick Crawford, a Republican from Arkansas, last week co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that blocks the use of federal transit funds to procure Chinese railway equipment. China's ownership of the equipment suppliers means the country's government could gather footage and audio, Crawford told Nikkei.
CRRC categorically denies being involved in espionage.
U.S. legislators are making these moves against Chinese companies as they gain prominence in the global marketplace. CRRC, the world's biggest manufacturer of rolling stock, amassed more than 214 billion yuan ($31 billion at current rates) in revenue last year, far surpassing its closest rivals, Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom. In the U.S., CRRC has won contracts in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
High-tech train cars form a major plank in Beijing's "Made in China 2025" initiative to modernize industry. Because Chinese suppliers receive generous assistance from the state, they do not need to worry about profit, said Erik Olson at the Rail Security Alliance, a U.S. lobbying group.
Both Congress and President Donald Trump's administration have banned federal agencies from procuring telecommunications equipment and security cameras from Huawei Technologies, ZTE and other major Chinese makers. But in both of these industries, no major U.S. companies exist.