Chinese Influence

Article excerpt


Chinese influence

China's communist government has used its relationships with prominent Americans to further a propaganda effort aimed at influencing U.S. policies and softening economic sanctions, according to recent congressional testimony.

Those whose names, words or friendships have been invoked by China to influence the debate over sanctions include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former President George H.W. Bush, said Anne-Marie Brady, an associate professor of political and social sciences at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Ms. Brady testified before the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission April 30 that it is long-standing Chinese policy to exploit foreigners for global propaganda work.

Historically, foreigners have been extremely useful in producing a wide range of propaganda materials, ranging from books, films and poetry, to public and private lobbying, she said.

In 1989, Chinese President Jiang Zemin ordered foreign diplomats to step up influence operations after the Tiananmen massacre by gaining support from prominent foreigners friendly to China, she said. The goal was to influence Western governments into dropping sanctions imposed on China after the military crackdown on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Henry Kissinger and George Bush senior are commonly cited as being particularly helpful to blunt the effects of sanctions in this period, Ms. Brady said.

The foreign friends the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has come to value most in the post-1989 period are prominent foreign figures that can bring commercial and political advantages to China and the Chinese oligarchy. Public agreement on China's political positions is not required, though it might help business along a little.

Ms. Brady did not provide further details on how figures like Mr. Bush or Mr. Kissinger are used in the propaganda efforts. But a U.S. defense official said the Chinese government invests vast resources in seeking out prominent Americans whose views coincide with many aspects of Chinese foreign policy. The Chinese can provide preferential business treatment and access to senior Chinese leaders as a way to enhance the standing of these former officials.

China's government also limits criticism of China by blocking visits to the country by perceived opponents of China.

Asked about China's efforts to block or remove U.S. sanctions, Larry Wortzel, co-chairman of the commission, said the Tiananmen-related sanctions remain important for U.S. national security because of growing Chinese military capabilities. If the U.S. lifted sanctions, it would open the floodgates for European arms sales to China, Mr. Wortzel said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kissinger said the former secretary of state was traveling and could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Bush could not be reached.

Chinese Embassy spokeswoman Wei Xin did not address the points raised at the hearing in an e-mail response.

China has solemnly stated on many occasions that China never does anything undermining the interest of others and China advocates cooperation between countries on the basis of fairness, justice, equality and mutual benefit, Ms. Wei said.

Ross Terrill, a historian at the Harvard University Fairbank Center for Asian Studies, testified that China is using money to try to manipulate foreign opinions of China.

A symbiosis occurs between Americans who benefit from business or other success with China and American institutions, he said. Money may appear from a businessman with excellent connections in China and it is hard for a think tank, needing funds for its research on China, to decline it. But the money may bring with it major Chinese ideological input into the program of the U.S. think tank.

Ms. …