▶Excerpt from testimony in US congress
Operations Affecting the United States
There are a number of different ways to categorize what Beijing is doing in the UnitedStates. I have chosen three areas — shaping the context, controlling the Chinese diaspora,and targeting the political core — to describe some of the main lines of effort of CCP unitedfront and external propaganda activities.
✔Shaping the Context: The CCP spends a great deal of effort on seemingly softer measures toshape the context through which China is understood. These activities were described byAmerican China scholar Perry Link as the “anaconda in the chandelier,” which encouragesself-censorship rather than upsetting the snake lurking above. Self-regulating behaviors aredifficult to identify and prove the party’s actions as the root cause
● Selective Visa Approvals: Everyone in the China studies field is aware that they mustbe careful with what they say and what they write if they wish to maintain access toChina. Twenty or more years ago, visa denials were relatively rare and the few peopleblacklisted were well-known. Now, the younger and younger scholars and analystshave visa troubles, and the general frustration of dealing with what is sometimes acapricious visa process makes it difficult to know when one has crossed a red line.
● Manipulation of History and Records: Chinese archives, databases, and Internet
materials routinely change form or disappear from the public record. In some cases,these may appear to be age-old policy debates, but may have contemporary resonancebecause they show the CCP considered options now anathema within the party. TheCCP also has applied pressure to Western academic publishers to limit or otherwisetailor access to materials available behind the Great Firewall.
● Academic Programs: CCP programs, like the Confucius Institutes, are less importantfor their specific content in dealing with U.S. universities than for establishing arelationship. By facilitating U.S. universities investment in facilities, researchcollaboration, or programs, the CCP creates a vulnerable relationship that can beused to apply pressure to the university unless the latter is prepared to walk away.
✔Controlling the Chinese Diaspora: The CCP attempts to mobilize Chinese society at homeand abroad by incentivizing cooperation, discouraging neutrality, and coercing compliance.Part of the point of this effort is to reflect the CCP’s power and authority back into China forPRC citizens. This reflection highlights the strength of the party and the absence of aninternational challenge to its legitimacy and authority.
● Buying Up Chinese-Language Media: Over the last 15 years, the CCP steadily chippedaway at independent Chinese-language media overseas. Media control was built upthrough outright purchases of existing media organizations, purchase by proxy, ordriving independent newspapers bankrupt by organizing advertiser boycotts. Today,the largest non-CCP media in the Chinese language are all associated with theFalungong. Overseas Chinese media owners and publishers regularly attend
conferences back in China where they can be told the current and upcoming
● Surveillance and Intimidation: The CCP monitors the Chinese diaspora quite closelyin order to apply pressure where appropriate. Some of this intimidation is quiteinvasive, including threats to and arrests of family members back in China. PRCGovernment officials and journalists attempt to track individuals who attend
politically-sensitive events and who shows up for pro-PRC rallies.
● Mobilizing to Support China: The CCP also mobilizes overseas Chinese, regardless ofcitizenship, to turn out for leadership visits, protests of the Dalai Lama, territorialdisputes, or other political events viewed unfavorably by Beijing, and, in the past, theOlympic torch relay. In other cases, community organizations are used to driveletter-writing campaigns to legislators to pressure them in directions favorable toBeijing.
✔Targeting the Political Core: The CCP targets the political and policy elite from above andbelow. At the top levels, the CCP engages unwitting naifs and witting co-conspirators to deliver its messages directly to U.S. decisionmakers without filtering through staff. At thelower levels, the CCP through community organizations assists the political careers ofsympathetic persons. Local races do not require the same resources for national elections.And today’s councilperson is tomorrow’s Congressional representative.
● Consultants: The exoticism with which we treat China has given rise to a cottage
industry of people interpreting China or leveraging their political connections to
open doors for U.S. businesses. These consultants, especially former governmentofficials, are paid by the U.S. business, but Beijing may have directed the company toengage this or that consultant as a way to reward their service. The business gainsaccess to China. The consultant gets paid and then assists the CCP in delivering itsreassuring messages to colleagues still serving in government.
● Dialogues: A number of U.S.-China Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues are managed byunited front organizations on the Chinese side, such as the Sanya Initiative. Thesemeetings offer the access and opportunity to brief U.S. participants on particularmessages or themes. The value comes from U.S. participants who are able to relaythose messages without staff filtering to senior policymakers. Although Americansoften see these dialogues as a way for mutual influence, the united front cadre chosenfor these meetings are those the party trusts to operate in an ideologically looseenvironment but still maintain party discipline. Put another way, these dialoguescontrol access and broadcast information; they are not a channel for influence.
● Building Up Local Politicians: Australian, Canadian, and U.S. counterintelligenceofficials all have reported seeing CCP efforts to cultivate the careers of localpoliticians. At this stage, even limited support in the form of election funds or voterturnout can make the difference. This is much cheaper than trying to subvert a sittingnational-level politician with established loyalties, and this kind of seeding effort hasbeen seen in espionage.
● Agents of Influence: Americans, both wittingly and unwittingly, become the CCP’sagents of influence, carrying the party’s message to their American friends in businessand politics as well as occasionally in the media limelight. These individuals often aresuccessful in business, possessing gravitas and a reputation for knowing China. In thepast, CCP leaders like Zhou Enlai made explicit statements about the need tocultivate these people and their reputations, so they could act as a party constituencyon a foreign shore.In many respects, unraveling the CCP influence/interference networks in the United States isa more difficult challenge than in states like Australia, New Zealand, and our EasternEuropean partners. The basic strength of U.S. laws and institutions has forced the CCP tooperate here with a greater degree of sophistication and further below the surface. There arebans on foreign campaign donations. The Foreign Agent Registration Act forces some people
acting on behalf of a foreign government to disclose that they are doing so or risk criminalprosecution. Ethics and lobbying rules also provide sunlight on who and how many suchagents engage Congressional members and staff. These rules and their enforcement are notsufficient, and they can be dodged. The act of hiding these activities helps prosecutors bydemonstrating intent.
Elsewhere in the world where democratic institutions are weaker or allow direct foreignfinancing for electoral candidates, Beijing has pushed and found openings. Because there isno illegality, the CCP has nothing to hide. Its agents and proxies have not needed to learnways to cloak their actions. Consequently, the rest of the world provides relevantinformation about the methods and tools used.
U.S. allies and partners also are targets for CCP influence operations. Regardless whethertheir relationship with the United States is a driver in Beijing’s activities, the CCP’s activitiesin these countries challenge U.S. interests, security cooperation, and values.
● Japan: The U.S.-Japan alliance is the lynchpin of the U.S. security presence in EastAsia. Within the alliance, the U.S. and Japanese bases on Okinawa are critical
resources for a wide range of contingencies. Japanese security officials believe theCCP has helped stoke the Okinawan separatist movement in an effort to split thealliance and establish the groundwork for solidifying claims in the East China Sea.
● Australia: Australia’s problems reportedly center around two billionaires, HuangXiangmo and Chau Chak Wing, who insinuated themselves into the country’spolitical landscape. Both men donated substantial amounts of money the majorpolitical parties and helped establish a network of loyal apparatchiks withinAustralian political parties. The extent of this influence already has brought downone Australian senator, Sam Dastyari, and the subsequent election was marred byrace-baiting, including the local Chinese consulate.
● Canada: In 2010, Canadian Security Intelligence Service chief Richard Fadden statedpublicly that municipal politicians in British Columbia and at least two ministers ofthe crown in the provinces worked on behalf of a foreign government as “agents ofinfluence.” Fadden’s comments spoke to a long-term CCP effort cultivate officialswho ultimately would work at the political center.
● Taiwan: Taiwan faces the leading edge of the CCP’s influence operations. Since theelection of the Tsai Ing-wen administration and the near collapse of the Kuomintang,Beijing has stepped its activities, including social media and news manipulation. TheCCP also supports at least one small political party that largely agitates against thepresident. The party’s campaign also includes squeezing Taiwanese with business inthe PRC, so that they act as Beijing’s proxies on the island.