WASHINGTON — President Trump has blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, but as the White House looks to stabilize small businesses in the United States, the rescue effort has had an unintended beneficiary: Chinese companies.
Millions of dollars of American taxpayer money have flowed to China from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program that was created in March to be a lifeline for struggling small businesses in the United States. But because the economic relief legislation allowed American subsidiaries of foreign firms to receive the loans, a substantial chunk of the money went to America’s biggest economic rival, a new analysis shows.
According to a review of publicly available loan data by the strategy consulting firm Horizon Advisory, $192 million to $419 million has gone to more than 125 companies that Chinese entities own or invest in. Many of the loans were quite sizable; at least 32 Chinese companies received loans worth more than $1 million, with those totaling as much as $180 million.
“The extent and nature of P.R.C.-owned, -invested and -connected entities among the P.P.P. loan recipients indicate that without appropriate policy guardrails, U.S. tax dollars intended for relief, recovery and growth of the U.S. economy — and small businesses in particular — risk supporting foreign competitors, namely China,” wrote Emily de La Bruyère and Nathan Picarsic, the co-founders of Horizon Advisory, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The report acknowledges that the participation of these companies in the lending program most likely saved an unspecified number of jobs based in the United States, but it also suggests that many of the businesses probably had access to other forms of capital from public or private markets to support their American operations. The Treasury Department has estimated that the overall program has kept 50 million workers employed in the United States.
The revelation that Chinese-backed companies were helped by American tax dollars show the deep ties that remain between American and Chinese businesses even as relations between the countries have deteriorated in recent months. Mr. Trump has regularly vented his anger at China and accused it of spreading a virus that has left the once-thriving United States economy in tatters.
The virus has emboldened the administration’s hawks in their calls for both punishing China and decoupling the world’s two largest economies, saying Beijing poses a national security threat. The administration in recent weeks has sanctioned Chinese officials accused of facilitating human rights violations in the Xinjiang region and banned more Chinese technology companies from buying American technology and components.
The White House is also nearing a decision that could force ByteDance, a Chinese firm, to sell the U.S. operations of the social media app TikTok over national security concerns.
But the administration’s aggressive approach to China did not stop companies with ties to Beijing from benefiting from one of the main programs intended to prop up the United States economy.