President Joe Biden’s potential pick to lead NASA has a history of investments tied to a Chinese technology giant and has advocated for cooperating with China in space.
Former senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) is reportedly jockeying to lead America’s space agency under Biden. Sources close to Nelson say that his closed-door campaign for the position is more than a rumor. As a former career astronaut, Nelson would seem a natural to lead the agency, but Nelson’s financial and political ties to China could complicate his potential confirmation.
Sen. Rick Scott (R., Fla.) criticized Nelson on the campaign trail for holding between $3,003 and $45,000 in a mutual fund invested in China Mobile, a Chinese state-owned telecommunications company. At the time, Nelson dismissed the revelation as unimportant compared with Scott’s own investments. China Mobile is China’s largest telecommunications provider, and the Department of Defense in November blacklisted the company, along with 19 other major Chinese companies, for its ties to the Chinese military. Adjacent state-owned Chinese businesses have developed 5G satellite technology that NASA may need to make note of in its daily operations.
Nelson did not return a request for comment.
Beyond financial interests, Nelson touts a long track record of championing closer ties with China in space. In 2004, Nelson met with both the Chinese ambassador and Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei in an intimate meeting to discuss space issues and the potential for Sino-American cooperation in space. Nelson was among the first Americans to congratulate Yang on his successful launch, saying that he hoped China could emerge as a key partner in American space initiatives, while some Republicans remained troubled by China’s growing space ambitions. Nelson told the Chinese ambassador that he wanted closer ties with Beijing in space efforts, even going as far as supporting a joint mission to Mars with China in their 2004 meeting. – READ MORE
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