Growing concern over China’s foreign influence ops


Media website Vox has been receiving money from a Chinese communist government-backed front organization, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Chinese Communist Party is increasingly making its influence felt through the “manipulation of information and foreign institutions,” U.S. politicians and commentators have warned. In a letter to senior officials in President Donald Trump’s administration, 12 U.S. senators called on Washington to come up with a strategic response to growing Chinese influence beyond its own borders, RFA reports:

The letter cited a number of attempts by the Chinese government to influence politicians in the European Union, as well as Beijing’s increasing clout with smaller nations dependent on it for crucial loans and investment. It cited a recent report by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which highlighted China’s “sharp power” influence campaign in the EU.

Some Sinologists tend to be more accommodating of official China compared to social scientists or political scientists, Kristin Shi-Kupfer, Director of Research at the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), tells China Digital Times:

For them it’s their love of and their fascination with China, but it’s also that their careers are based on access to and cooperation with China. They may face a shortage of financial resources from domestic institutions, and therefore take up Chinese offers for financing of research, funding for conferences. From their point of view, it’s threatening to their career if you force them to be overly cautious of any Chinese funding.

Giving evidence to Congress last December, University of Michigan historian Glenn Tiffert said China often wins the propaganda war with money, RFA adds.

“What distinguishes the Chinese efforts to wield influence in the United States is that they are spending a great deal more money to do that—they have commercial advantages and so they are able, through, for example, Confucius Institutes, to promote a particular view of China and to close out discussion of certain topics on campus,” Tiffert said in his testimony.

“They are able to donate money to a particular cause—much of this is legal activity but they can simply wield influence because they can write checks,” he said. “China is not necessarily appealing to hearts and minds, it is appealing to wallets.”

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