Trojan Panda: the heavy hand of soft power China
Material posted: Publication date: 24-10-2019
The growing political and economic power of China excites many countries, especially the United States. At the same time, some other countries welcome open your arms in front of the Chinese, and China's investment in infrastructure projects has reached Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, writes Postimees.

But in our region about the impact of China speak a little. Therefore we decided to publish a series of articles detailing about it. The journalists learned how soft power and everything to do with cyber security and intelligence, and economic interests. Partners Postimees in this investigation were the investigative journalists of the Latvian centre Re:Baltica and the Lithuanian business newspaper Verslo Žinios.

The purpose of Chinese soft power in the Baltic States is to prevent such uncomfortable discussions of foreign policy issues as the autonomy of Tibet and the spread of best for Beijing worldview through the Confucius Institute. In may of this year in Latvia have gathered parliamentarians from different countries to meet with representatives of the government and Parliament of Tibet in exile.

Chairman of the support group in the Riigikogu Tibet Yoko Alender is also thought to participate in the event. About her plans knew of two people, and she had failed to ask the officials of the Riigikogu to make this trip. Suddenly nearby there was a present Chairman of the Committee on foreign Affairs Anne Eesmaa. "He asked if I would come to Riga and am I one. At first I did not understand what he's talking about," recalls Alender. It turned out that the Chinese Ambassador had already spoken to with Eesmaa on this topic.

This conversation scared Alender, she didn't understand how the Chinese could learn about her plans. As a result, in the event it was not involved, but, according to her, not because of pressure from the Chinese, and the campaign associated with the upcoming euroelections. The event was not attended by even one Estonian politician. "This, of course, the work of Chinese soft power," said Postimees member of Parliament of Tibet in exile Hundon Aukatsang.

The Chinese policy of "one China, two systems" does not recognize any sovereignty of Tibet or Taiwan. Therefore, China does not hesitate to use diplomatic means to prevent the meeting of politicians of the Baltic States with the Dalai Lama or Taiwan's politicians.

Under pressure

This case is one of at least four in two years, when the Chinese Embassy protested against the meetings of Estonian politicians with the Dalai Lama, representatives of the government of Tibet in exile or policies of Taiwan. Last year, China's Ambassador to Estonia, Li Chao sent an official appeal to the Commission on foreign Affairs of the Riigikogu, in which he said that the conduct of Lender constitutes interference in China's internal Affairs.

Member of Parliament Yoko Alender, his Holiness the Dalai Lama and speaker of the Parliament of Tibet in exile Khenpo Sonam Tenphel. FOTO: Erakogu

A few days before Alender returned from a trip to India, where he met with both the Dalai Lama and government in exile. The Chinese Ambassador said in his protest letter that Estonia is obliged to follow only the policy of China. "Meeting Yoko Alender, the Dalai Lama and separatists are sending the world the wrong signal. In any case they are not joined with good relations between Estonia and China at the moment. This negatively affects the attempts of Estonia to promote itself to the people of China," wrote the Ambassador, and asked to report its "strong dissatisfaction and resolute protest" and Alender.

When last year Urmas Paet with a delegation from the European Parliament visited Taiwan and met with President Cai Inveni, with members of the security Council of Taiwan and representatives of the opposition, the Embassy of China has sent to the Estonian foreign Ministry a note of protest. "The foreign Ministry is not the destination, because I was visiting Taiwan as a member of the European Parliament," said Paet.

Last year Taiwan in the composition of the European Parliament delegation visited the Estonian politician Urmas Paet, where he met with the President. This visit sparked protest from the Chinese Embassy who was transferred to the Ministry of foreign Affairs of Estonia, although Paet went as the Deputy of the European Parliament. PHOTO: Taiwani presidendikantselei

And Paet, and Lender recognize that the reaction leading aggressive of the Embassy of the alarm, but a member of the Parliament of Estonia or Europe – free in their actions. "Tibetan culture has given so much to the world that we have to give them credit. We do not demand their independence, we only ask that they had the right to preserve their culture," said Alander.

To receive a review Postimees sent their questions to the Chinese Embassy last Tuesday, when representatives of the Embassy visited the newspaper. But by last night, we have not received a response to either one of them.

And other Baltic countries are under the same pressure. In 2015, the then Chairman of the foreign Affairs Commission of the Saeima of Latvia Ojārs Kalniņš Eric called the Chinese Ambassador and expressed his dissatisfaction about the upcoming visit of the representatives of Tibet. After that, Kalnins tried to convince his colleagues not to hold a meeting in the diet building.

Kalnins told Re:Baltica that call the Ambassador was not a threat, it was diplomacy, although from any other Ambassador, he calls not received. But famous Latvian expert in the field of diplomacy Vita Matisa not agree with Calvinism: "If you say that in case some of your action you expect problems, this is the kind of threat". Chinese notice even the smallest details, if they are contrary to the purposes of China. In 2013, Riga airport has removed a poster that advertised a public lecture the Dalai Lama. Such order came from the top, confirmed the representative of the airport Laura Karnite, but did not disclose the exact source of the order. In 2015 and at Tallinn airport disappeared portrait of the Dalai Lama. "Maybe someone stole it" is the only one that explained at the airport.

From the presidential Palace to the boycott

Although in General the Baltic States was friendly to policies of Tibet in exile, the pressure of China and commercial opportunities on one of the largest markets in the world prevailed, and beginning to dominate self-censorship.

In 2001, while visiting Latvia, the Dalai Lama met with senior representatives of the country with then-President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzinshem. Ten years later the Dalai Lama - despite the advice of the Ministry of foreign Affairs not to do so - welcomed in Tallinn President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Minister of defence Mart Laar. In 2013, the Dalai Lama jokingly posed next to the iron lady of Latvia, President Dalia Grybauskaite.

In 2011, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves met with visiting Estonia the Dalai Lama. This meeting for years to shut down the Chinese market for Estonian dairy products. PHOTO: Jarek Jõepera

As far as we know, this was the last time someone from the Baltic presidents or Ministers met with the spiritual leader of Tibet.

In August 2011, the Dalai Lama met with the Minister of defense and a traitor IRL Mart Laar. PHOTO: Toomas Huik / Postimees / Scanpix Baltics

Now the Ministry of foreign Affairs of Latvia recommends that senior representatives of the state not to meet with either the Dalai Lama or the Tibet. It is not recommended to invite the representatives of Tibet and Protocol services, for example, state protection, confirmed by the Minister of foreign Affairs Edgars rinkēvičs.

This turn is rooted in the year 2011, when relations between Estonia and China arose cooling. Estonian dairy companies hoping to enter the Chinese market, but Ilves after a meeting with the Dalai Lama, the market has become almost impassable. In addition, the Chinese authorities cancelled the official visit of the Minister of agriculture Helir-Valdor of seeder in China, and the company waited in front of the bureaucratic obstacles.

"For the emergence of a thaw in relations and penetration into the Chinese market it took years and a series of meetings with Chinese officials. Our officials worked tirelessly to get a relationship back on the rails," said Anne Sulling confronted with this issue in 2014-2015 for the post of Minister of foreign trade. The Chinese market was opened to Estonian dairy enterprises in 2016.

The cold breath of the relationship affected not only businesses. At the same time, Estonia was built by Beijing new building of the Embassy. When in 2014 the government wanted to inaugurate, China was not allowed to take the holiday part Urmas Paet. He was given to understand that if he will arrive for the opening, it will not participate no senior official or politician of China. "Such a petty attitude very disturbing," said Paet.

Built for the new Estonian Embassy building leases space and representation of Iceland, therefore, in early 2014 the building was opened by the Minister of foreign Affairs of this country. Estonia came to the official opening a year later, when the Minister of foreign Affairs was already keit Pentus-Rosimannus.

All the rules dictate China

Stiff the Chinese tactic is carried out through the Confucius Institute, which received its name in honor of the most famous Chinese philosopher. This under the control of Chinese government authority is looking for partners in other universities of the world and under the guise of language teaching, and the culture conveys a vision of the country of Chinese life. Critics say that the Confucius Institute teaches the history and culture in a manner that eliminates the issue of human rights and according to which Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of the state.

"The Confucius Institute is a great brand to spread our culture abroad. He made a significant contribution to the increase in our soft power. The brand of Confucius attractive in a natural way. If used as a pretext to study the Chinese language, everything begins to seem clear and logical." So during a speech in 2011, said a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist party Li Changchun.

The Confucius Institute works in each of the Baltic States. At Tallinn University and Vilnius University it was opened in 2010 and a year later he appeared in the University of Latvia. There are also classes of Confucius – study programs Chinese language work in 14 Latvian, eight to ten Estonian and Lithuanian schools.

Catherine Court. PHOTO: Konstantin Sednev

Although institutions work in the Baltic States for almost ten years, great attention they have attracted in February this year, when the intelligence agencies of Lithuania included in the annual report of the hazard assessment. The Institute will, of course, mentioned only in passing, but in mass media of Lithuania, he hit the headlines.

Residuosity of Lithuania said in a report that intelligence activities of China in the country became more aggressive: "In foreign countries, the exploration of China have traditionally worked under diplomatic cover, using, among other things, a government-funded Confucius Institute, a Chinese enterprise, news agencies and students overseas Chinese students".

The report stated that residenters of China in Lithuania mainly focused on the so-called home of the theme: "for Example, I want Lithuania did not support the independence of Tibet and Taiwan, and also not raised this issue on the international level."

After the publication of the report of the politician with great experience and a current member of the European Parliament Ausra Maldacena asked the question: do we need the Confucius Institute at Vilnius University? "We need to re-evaluate the role of the Institute and to reflect on the fact that the national University of Lithuania work education, funded by the ideological wing of the Chinese Communist party".

Special services of Latvia for many years looking out for its Confucius Institute. "The goal of the Institute of sound pompous, but his work is associated with risks - told Re:Baltica service is VDD. – Its purpose is not only to promote China to other countries, but the spread is acceptable for the Communist party of the ideological pronouncements of academics, cultural figures and entrepreneurs."

Capo in comparison with their colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania put much softer, saying only that the Confucius Institute is, of course, is an important part in spreading the soft power of China, collecting information and kartirovanie sentiment, but in Estonia it is almost the only opportunity to study Chinese language and culture.

The same was stressed by the head of the Confucius Institute of Tallinn University Catherine Court. According to her, the University had no choice: at their own expense to teach the Chinese language have no place, teachers who are Chinese native speakers, in Estonia no. Therefore, came to the aid financed by the Chinese Institute. But Court added that since the Chinese question is extremely allergic and the Confucius Institute around the world look suspicious, it avoids the organization of events on sensitive topics.

In Estonia and Latvia and in Lithuania local University pays the salaries of only the Director and Secretary of the Confucius Institute. Teachers selects and pays their salaries Hanban, a non-profit Association, operating under the wing of the Ministry of education of China. All teachers report to before Habana.

Temporary special Commission in the Senate of the United States found that Chinese teacher must sign a contract with the government of China, "after giving his word not to harm the international interests of China". According to the labor agreements, teachers are unable to participate, for example, in the religious movement Falun Gong and other banned in China organizations.

Who wished to remain anonymous, a student of the Confucius Institute of the University of Latvia told Re:Baltica that his teachers do not want to discuss the issues that are associated with sensitive political topics in China's history. For example, when a student wanted to know how and why the management model is different from Hong Kong Chinese, the teacher noted that this is not the topic of the subject. That is where the conversation ended.

Vita Matisa stressed that the Confucius institutes are not independent, they should not be considered a Trojan horse as they are part of the newly created Chinese Communist government organization, which has penetrated into foreign universities.

A piece of China for 100 000 euros per year

For the former rector of Latvian University Marcis of Auzinsh dinner at the residence of the Chinese Ambassador was a normal part of working relationships. Sometimes during these dinners he heard: "you Know, so-and-so your lecturer is collaborating with the Taipei representative office... did You know that our government supports you, but he may not like it".

The General public does not know that the Chinese government generously subsidizes the Confucius institutes. Of the three Baltic countries to better funded Institute, located in Estonia. In this year's budget in the amount of 226 000 EUR Tallinn University makes 124 000 euros, which was charged to current expenses. The rest, almost 100 000 euros in the budget adds Hanban. Chinese sredstva events, such as seminar of Chinese culture, the visit of the workers of education of Estonia in Shanghai or China week in pärnu.

University of Latvia during the last eight years has received from China 633 000 euros. This Institute is headed by one of the country's most respected sinologists, former diplomat and KGB agent Peteris Pedagogic. Talking with reporters about financial matters he was not happy: he kategoriski rejected allegations that the Latvian Institute receives annually about 100 000 Euro from China.

"Maybe in the other countries of the world get such large amounts, but not us. I told you everything, what do you not understand? Do you understand Latvian? Maybe need me to tell you that in Chinese?" - he was angry at the journalist. But open data also show that during the year the Institute has received from China on average 79 000 euros.

Political Director of the American research center International Association of scientists Rachell Peterson said that the Confucius institutes are "pieces of the Chinese government in the University campuses". In her opinion, the institutions would have to close because they can bring to academic censorship.

Many reports one can find signs of self-censorship in the Confucius institutes in domestic universities. For example, campuses can not carry out activities in support of Tibet. During the last five years in the United States were closed 24 chapters Confucianism, ten of them - just this year. And many universities in Europe, for example, in Stockholm and Lyon, close them.

Data is collected about pupils

Re:Baltica interviewed three students from the Confucius Institute of the University of Latvia, and all three said that teachers often take pictures of students, explaining the need to write reports. The head of the Institute Pildegovics confirmed that these reports are indeed compiled, but it can say nothing about their contents, assuring that he had not seen any of them.

Enclosed in Tallinn University for five years, the Treaty on the Institute's work ends in December this year, but since none of the parties announced in September about wanting him to stop, it is automatically extended. To terminate the agreement Tallinn University does not want to, but plans to make it an item that would oblige the parties to behave in accordance with the Law on personal data protection.

This need arose when the Chinese want to create a database of people who attended courses of Chinese language. She had to contain information about learning, but not only: it wanted to make a note about the careers of the participants. Court said that he refused to help.

"Of course, this kind of form of soft power that China is trying to present as beautiful and the best, while creating a positive image," admitted Court. She explained that aimed in Estonia the teachers are officially no other work are not engaged: "My job is to watch what they were doing".

According to Rachel Peterson, it would be naive to believe that the Chinese are funded by local Confucius institutes kindness: "the Problem is not only what they teach in the classroom. This also applies to the impact they have on the entire University if leadership is afraid to lose the cash flow from China, or if professors see the need in self-censorship".

"The Chinese government knows that the Confucius institutes attractive to universities. They know how enticing it is to access someone who speaks Chinese as a native and as a good opportunity to obtain scholarships to study abroad. The government of China takes off with this cream".

Vita Matisa warns that it is a very dangerous path: "Initially, the opportunity of getting money is tempting. But the farther you go, the greater the risk. In many countries it is already understood".

First lobbyists of Estonia receive a salary from China

Embassy of China is using to achieve the goals of the organization communicate a well-known PR firm Miltton New Nordics.

Activists are Miltton Annika Arras that had to do with the reform Party and the social Democrats, Martin Kukk, Land of Randel, and recently went out and became the General Secretary of socdemo Runner Vasiliev.

For example, it Miltton two weeks ago gave Postimees opinion of the Ambassador of China Li Chao, which concerned the mass protests in Hong Kong. In this article, Ambassador, among other things, wrote about the fact that many Hong Kong protesters do not know exactly against what they are expressing dissatisfaction, a change in the law (regarding the expulsion of the residents of Hong Kong to China), which became the basis of protest is, in fact, improve their lives.

Executive Director of Miltton Annika Arras said that contractual cooperation with the Embassy of China began in January of this year, and Miltton offers "only in the field of communication and organization of cultural events".

"More precisely, we make media monitoring on topics related to China, this means that our communication consultants translate Estonian news. Miltton has no Chinese Embassy services custody".

The Ambassador in a picture with a drug kingpin. China's Ambassador to Estonia, Li Chao (left) and drug kingpin Frank Hu. FOTO: PHOTO: Boxun

Diplomatic fate of the current Chinese Ambassador in Estonia, Li Chao threw him to Barbados, Hong Kong and Sydney where he worked in the period 2005-2008, the Vice-Consul of the Consulate General.

Alternative publishing citizen journalists, China in 2008, wrote about Li Chao's close ties with businessman Frank Hu. Frank Hu was a well-known Sydney businessman, who had close ties with the Chinese diplomatic network, and have close contact with many senior politicians of Australia. At the same time, Hu was the leader of society, promoting cultural exchange between Australia and China, and, according to the newspaper, organized the necessary Consulate cultural events.

But noteworthy is the fact that in 2008, the Australian police arrested Frank Hu and accused him of creating one of the country's largest drug trafficking groups. On March 4 at the company's address, Hu arrived the container in which the police found 250 kilos of cocaine disguised as tea bags.

And, although Hu was able to zakonservirovat his relationship with the gang, he never drug do not touch and are not used in communication even code words, the detectives were able to prove his role, and in 2011 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Tallinn became Li Chao the next place abroad, but after returning from Sindia in Beijing for ten years he worked as the head of the administrative and financial departments of the Ministry of foreign Affairs.

Holger Roonemaa, Marie Eesmaa, Sabine Berzina


Tags: information war , China