China’s foreign influence operations causing alarm: ‘struggle over ideology and values’



Washington is waking up to the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds. China’s overriding goal is, at the least, to defend its authoritarian system from attack and at most to export it to the world at America’s expense, the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin writes:

The foreign influence campaign is part and parcel of China’s larger campaign for global power, which includes military expansion, foreign direct investment, resource hoarding, and influencing international rules and norms. But this part of China’s game plan is the most opaque and least understood. Beijing’s strategy is first to cut off critical discussion of China’s government, then to co-opt American influencers in order to promote China’s narrative. …There are budding efforts to increase awareness of Chinese foreign influence activities. The National Endowment for Democracy issued a report last week called “Sharp Power,” which tracked authoritarian influence from China and Russia in several developing countries.

Countries such as AustraliaNew Zealand and even Canada have been rocked by recent revelations of Chinese-sponsored efforts to corrupt their politicians, universities, think tanks and businesses. U.S. political and thought leaders are just beginning to understand the problem and come together to devise responses.

“We have a lot of discussion of Russian interference in our elections, but the Chinese efforts to influence our public policy and our basic freedoms are much more widespread than most people realize,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China [CECC – which will hold a hearing this week on the “Long Arm of China,” featuring Shanthi Kalathil, Director, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy].

New Zealand’s security chiefs have called for a more vocal government response to national security threats after a spate of spying incidents highlighted Beijing’s attempts to influence the country’s growing Chinese community, the Financial Times reports:

Briefings prepared for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little, the minister in charge of security agencies, mark the latest official expression of concern over Beijing’s political influence in New Zealand and Australia as they experience a surge in political activity from people with alleged ties to China’s Communist party as their Chinese-born populations surge. One briefing cites “activities in New Zealand over the past year [that] have included attempts to access sensitive government and private sector information, and attempts to unduly influence expatriate communities”.

“The New Zealand intelligence community is telling the government they have got a problem and they need to deal with it publicly, to put some sunlight on it,” said Anne-Marie Brady, politics professor at the University of Canterbury [and author of Marketing Dictatorship, right].  She said China was undoubtedly the country referred to in the security briefing as seeking to influence its expatriate community. A Canterbury university report co-authored by Ms Brady identified Beijing’s financial support for a wide range of New Zealand “United Front” organisations, aimed at advancing Chinese interests.

China’s influence in Australia has been highlighted by Labor MP Michael Danby [above, a leading figure in the World Movement for Democracy].

China’s ruling Communist Party has sought to dismiss media reports on Beijing’s interference in Australia as racist and paranoid, Reuters reports.

While the Chinese Communist Party historically dedicated itself to defending its domestic repression and strict social controls, Beijing under Xi Jinping is increasingly promoting that system as a model for development abroad while working to define global governance to cement Chinese practices,, the Post’s Rogin adds.

“We need to recognize there really is a struggle over both ideology and values going on,” said Andrew Nathan of Columbia University. “We won the Cold War, but history didn’t end.”

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