Miami Bans Chinese Companies From Bidding on Potential Monorail Project

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Sep 05 2019 |
What other artwork did you think we would use in a story about a monorail? | Wikipedia

Plus: The White House says it wants Chinese SOEs banned from building both rail cars and buses.

Public transportation probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you picture Miami Beach — you probably think of sun and sand and these golden girls.

But the sunny locale is the latest place to find itself at the center of the debate over whether China’s state-owned or controlled companies should be allowed to build transit like rail cars.

The answer from Miami-Dade commissioners: Nope.

After the success of systems in Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook, there’s talk about building a monorail to connect mainland Miami and Miami Beach.

On Wednesday, the commissioners voted to authorize a bidding process for companies to construct the new four-mile transit system. They also voted to ban Chinese train companies from participating in that process.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he has “concerns about what’s happening with that particular country, not only in trying to take our technology but also infiltrating and penetrating our technology.” Florida Sens. Marco Rubio (R) and Rick Scott (R) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) also had opposed giving China a role in Miami’s transit system.

And China had been making a play.

See, Miami officials are considering a variety of transit types for the project, including adding rapid-transit buses, expanding the existing Metromover system or building light rail. One of the biggest advocates for a monorail is Genting, a Malaysian company that wants to build a big casino and resort on 30 acres of land it owns in downtown Miami.

Genting is looking to connect its property to tourist-friendly Miami Beach — betting that doing so will help drive visitors to the resort — and has even offered to fund construction of a new monorail system.

After all, there’s nothing on Earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified six-car monorail.

Who did Genting propose actually build it? No, not Lyle Lanley, but another player with a sketchy track record: Build Your Dreams (BYD).

As we outlined on the blog last month, the Chinese company claims to be on the level, but it maintains deep ties to the Chinese state, considered a “national champion” and a key player in the government’s “Made in China 2025” plan to dominate key global industries.

Interestingly, while most of BYD’s recent efforts in the United States have centered on building electric buses, Genting wanted BYD to build the trains for the Miami monorail. Ultimately, while Miami commissioners voted to allow Genting to submit a bid, they also decided that BYD cannot a part of it.

White House Weighs In

While Miami officials tackle this issue in their hometown, the White House on Wednesday officially made its views known: It wants Chinese state-owned, controlled, or subsidized companies banned from using taxpayer dollars to build both rail cars and buses.

The Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress with its thoughts on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill that funds defense spending. Both the Senate and House have passed versions of the legislation, and both included amendments addressing this issue.

The Senate bill would apply a ban to both rail cars and buses, while the House version applies only to rail cars. The Trump administration backs the Senate bill:

“It is critical that such prohibitions cover procurement of all rolling stock transit vehicles to ensure the Nation’s economic and national security and to prevent the use of Federal dollars to support foreign state-controlled enterprises.”

It's the right call. Congress should move forward with the Senate version. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be given to Chinese state-owned or controlled companies to build U.S. transit — and tax money certainly shouldn't be used to fund the ambitions of the Chinese state.

You can weigh in, too: Tell your Members of Congress to support the Senate version of the NDAA.

O.K., you made it to the end of this blog. Now here’s what we know you really came to see in a post about a monorail: