Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was the subject of yet another report unflattering to his record on China this week, this time for reportedly providing $90,000 in tax relief to the subsidiary of a Chinese-headquartered solar panel manufacturer with a factory in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Washington Examiner reported Thursday that the DeSantis administration provided $90,000 in tax relief to the Chinese company JinkoSolar in 2020, through his urban job tax credit program. The company would be raided by the Department of Homeland Security in 2022 after allegations it violated the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
A DeSantis gubernatorial spokesman referred the Washington Examiner to the Florida Department of Commerce, where spokeswoman Rose Hebert reportedly did not deny the kickback, but argued that it was a continuation from the previous governor, now-Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL).
As we have made explicitly clear, this company was recruited by the [Rick] Scott Administration and all incentives they received were a result of that recruitment … . Further, when the governor signed HB5 in 2023, he prohibited all Chinese companies (and any company from the seven foreign countries of concern in Florida law) from ever receiving state incentives in Florida.
A spokesman for Scott told the outlet that since he made a deal with JinkoSolar in 2018, which he said created 1.7 million jobs in Florida, the world has changed.
“Since then, the world has seen who Communist China truly is and the grave atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party,” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis told the Washington Examiner. “If he was still governor he would have already taken every opportunity to claw back incentives.”
The report raises questions for DeSantis, who became governor of Florida in 2019, over his claims on the campaign trail of being tough on China.
The report said that JinkoSolar received $125,000 in tax refunds in 2019-20 and $237,500 in 2021-22, according to Florida’s now-defunct state public-private economic development partnership known as Enterprise Florida.
The partnership was only disbanded in June — after DeSantis announced his candidacy, according to The Messenger. In addition, the website for the partnership was deleted just days before the second Republican presidential primary debate, which the DeSantis administration said was a coincidence.
The Washington Examiner report said the city of Jacksonville had approved a proposal for JinkoSolar to get $2.3 million in property tax rebates over a decade last April, but withdrew the proposal after the DHS raid.
JinkoSolar — which the report said still plans to extend its Florida plant — said in a statement to the outlet: “It is important to note that while the government has not told us what this investigation is about, since the inception of [the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act], and through the present day, Customs and Border Protection has reviewed and released all of Jinko’s solar panels based on documentation provided by the company.”
The presidential campaign for former President Donald Trump highlighted the latest report in a statement by spokesman Steven Cheung that said:
In a damning new report exposing Ron for his Chinese ties, he provided ‘tax relief to a federally investigated subsidiary of a Chinese company, according to Florida state government records, despite claiming in the past his administration had not supported the business.
Lying Ron or Red Ron, either way, he’s a shill for China and a CCP sympathizer who will go to great lengths to protect them.
Donald Trump Jr. posted on X, “Yikes!”
Washington Examiner: DeSantis gave federally investigated Chinese company tax credit despite earlier denialshttps://t.co/5zxOAc9qjF
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 1, 2023
Other Republican presidential candidates, particularly former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have also seized on reports of DeSantis’s ties with Chinese businesses in Florida.
Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
One report by Bloomberg News in August said DeSantis allowed for a loophole in a May bill that banned Chinese nationals from owning or acquiring agricultural land or real property in Florida in response to lobbying from top donor Ken Griffin.
Another report by the New York Post in November said that DeSantis allowed a Chinese firm called Cirrus Aircraft — which produces equipment for China’s military — to expand its presence in central Florida, including at an airport fewer than 15 miles away from a U.S. military training site. Cirrus’s parent company, AVIC, was reportedly sanctioned by the U.S. in 2020 as a possible national security threat.
Yet another report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in November said that while DeSantis banned Florida from doing business with China, his administration leases a plane owned by a Chinese firm for $2 million a year through another company that does business with the Chinese firm.
And just last week, the Miami Herald reported that DeSantis and committees affiliated with him took $340,000 in donations from the CEO of a Tampa refrigerant company backed by China.
The DeSantis campaign in a statement to the Washington Examiner pointed to Haley’s record on China. He is battling for second place with Haley, after Trump, who is the clear frontrunner.
“Ron DeSantis uniquely recognizes the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and spent his governorship working to end pre-existing state ties with China and build up protections against future Chinese incursions,” DeSantis campaign press secretary Bryan Griffin said.
“Nikki Haley spent her governorship courting Chinese businesses to South Carolina, calling them a friend, and failing to pursue corrective efforts to safeguard her state from the threat of the CCP. ”