A popular belief says that when elections come, politicians change their speeches according to the circumstances of the moment. This seems to be reflected in the new position taken by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). 

Friend or foe of China?

Peters, a member of the Democratic Party, is seeking re-election in what is expected to be a close election contest in November to represent Michigan’s state on Capitol Hill.

In a campaign spot, the senator is critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“I’ve always been tough on the Chinese government. Supporting the China travel ban, demanding the truth about the spread of COVID-19, and I’m fighting to take back production of life-saving drugs and medical supplies from China, so we’ll never be held hostage,” Peters says.

However, until not long ago, his public utterances differed greatly from his current statements about the CCP.

In fact, the Michigan Democrat praised the CCP’s “response” in the first stage of the spread of the coronavirus, also called the CCP Virus, stating that the Chinese government “instituted some very, very aggressive actions in Wuhan Province.

Peters’s notorious change in discourse was also evident when, in line with his Democratic Party colleagues’ stance, he opposed the Trump Administration’s travel ban on China.

But once he saw the effectiveness of the White House proposal, Senator Peters quickly changed his tune, claiming to be a strong supporter of it. 

Progressive double talk

Peters’ contradictions about China are not only manifested in his evident change of discourse but are even more accentuated in the very financing that his election campaign is receiving.

The Democratic senator received at least $67,500 in donations from companies linked to China or even the CCP directly.

Below are brief details of such donations, recorded by the Center for Responsive Politics, an NGO that tracks election money.

  • $19,400 from the Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck law firm employees, an entity registered as an agent of the Chinese technology company Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co.
  • $22,200 from Capitol Counsel LLC employees, a company, registered with both the China-United States Exchange Foundation and The U.S.- China Transpacific Foundation. Both entities are identified as Chinese foreign agents.
  • $5,500 from the employees of BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying firm that is also registered with the China–United States Exchange Foundation.
  • $1,900 from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw employees, a law firm registered as a foreign agent of the Chinese company iFLYTEK Co.
  • $16,000 from the employees of Patton Boggs, a law firm registered as a foreign agent of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.
  • $2,000 from the employees of the international law firm Steptoe & Johnson, which is also listed by Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co.
  • $500 from Levick’s employees, a public relations firm registered as a foreign agent of China Telecom (Americas) Corporation.

“Gary Peters talks tough on China in TV ads funded in part by contributions from lobbyists who work for the Chinese government [CCP],” notes Tori Sachs, a consultant with the Better Future MI Fund.

“Peters is just another politician saying whatever it takes to get reelected,” says Sachs. In four months, it will be known whether Peters’ strategy was successful or whether Michigan voters noticed his obvious change in discourse.