by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The founder of a lithium battery company poised to receive a $200 million grant from the Biden administration was once brought to China through a Chinese Communist Party program that the FBI warns is used for economic espionage.
The founder and chief executive officer of Microvast, Wu Yang, in 2000 was recruited to move back to China from the United States as part of a Chinese government-sponsored “talent program.” The grant to Microvast could conflict with the stated policy of the Department of Energy, which plans to boost the company with the massive green energy grant. A DOE official said in February that the department is “prohibited” from funding people who are involved in foreign talent programs.
The Department of Energy has faced criticism from lawmakers for months over its proposed $200 million grant to Microvast to build a battery separator facility, after the Washington Free Beacon reported late last year that the company operates primarily out of China. While the administration in a pre-election press release last October portrayed the funding as a done deal, the department now says the grant is still under review.
But the Microvast CEO’s participation in a talent recruitment program could complicate the deal further. Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), who first noted Wu’s participation in the Chinese program, is urging Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to “immediately terminate [the department’s] award negotiations with Microvast, Inc.”
Barrasso says there is “clear evidence that the founder, chairman, and CEO of Microvast participated in a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talent program designed to entice overseas talent to return to China for the benefit of the CCP.” These programs work to entice high-achieving individuals to move back to China—but the Chinese Communist Party often uses them to “encourage trade secret theft [and] economic espionage,” according to the FBI.