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How to counteract Chinese influence operations
Material posted: Publication date: 19-11-2019
As trade negotiations between the U.S. and China struggling along to an uncertain conclusion, many in the world remain concerned about the potential escalation of conflict between the two economically largest countries. But in the narrow discussion on the topic of duties, which introduced the principle of an eye for an eye, or on the topic of Chinese mercantilism and theft of intellectual property are not considered the wider implications of this trade war: the US and China lose the ability to communicate in any other way, than opponents.

In the eyes of the US China represents a quickly growing threat. This attitude is partly due to the huge surplus of China in bilateral trade and its blatant attempts to acquire American technology. But there are other reasons, perhaps even more important: China's pursuit of military hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, its rapidly increasing investments abroad, and attempts to change the course of global political discussions and to influence other countries, including the United States.

As warned last year the FBI Director Christopher ray, such efforts include the use of non-traditional actors to infiltrate democratic institutions, particularly in scientific and educational environment. In this sense, concludes ray, "the Chinese threat" is not just a "threat to government" is a "threat to society". These concerns are reiterated in the recently published report "the Impact of China and American interests", which was prepared by a working group consisting of 23 people created jointly by the Hoover institution and the Asian society (we were co-chairs of this group).

This report concludes that the Communist party of China (CPC) is engaged in a penetration in a wide range of American institutions (from universities and think tanks to the media and local authorities), and in the Chinese-American fraternity. KPK digs tunnels in the soft fabric of American democracy.

It is neither explicit use of "hard" military or economic strength, nor by those transparent exchanges with which democratic countries are its soft power to the world. This is one of the forms of the phenomenon called "sharp force". In the words of the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, we are talking about using tactics that are "hidden, coercive and corrupt" actions to force other countries to follow the propaganda line of China and to support its interests.

The main tool is the use of sharp force is extensive and well-developed apparatus of PDAs called the "United front". This numbering almost a hundred years, the system for the promotion of Chinese propaganda and influence abroad. For her, as for the Chinese system of Leninism in General is not very important for the integrity of civil institutions, and even less values such as freedom of speech, religion and Assembly. On the contrary, she enjoys the openness of Western liberal democracies for their own purposes.

What is this purpose? In contrast to the Russian influence operations, which focus on the manipulation of the elections through misinformation about the country, selected a target, Chinese overseas operations, including in the United States, focused on the dissemination of information about China. The leaders of the country want to influence the world perception of China's rise in order to minimize any obstacles to the militarization of the South China sea, the repression against religious minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, Intrusive surveillance of citizens, and resistance to democratic reforms in Hong Kong.

For these purposes, China uses its own citizens who are abroad (especially in academic and scientific environment, and both teachers and students) and members of the Chinese Diaspora, which is called "compatriots" (同胞们), whose duty is to demonstrate the loyalty of the "native China" (中国祖国). Even today, many Chinese students do not feel free enough to sincerely talk in American classrooms and Chinese experts are engaged in self-censorship in order to preserve the possibility to return home; most of the media in the Chinese language in the United States adhere to the friendly to China line.

According to ray, the Chinese operations effects requires the "response of society". And in our opinion, the answer must focus on "constructive oversight". American universities, think tanks, the media, associations and local authorities must demand transparency in its relations with prospective Chinese partners, including full disclosure of any relationships that they maintain with the Chinese government, the CCP or the army.

For US it is extremely important to prevent such a response was provoked by racist attack on the Chinese in America. China can read any Chinese or person of Chinese descent a potential agent. But adhering to its values of justice and equality, America needs to only look at the behavior of the person and not on his ethnicity.

American institutions will be better able to recognize suspicious behavior and to protect its integrity, if you will try to learn more about who they are dealing with, including through cooperation with similar institutions in the United States and abroad. Chinese agents acute power should not be allowed to apply the strategy of "divide and conquer".

Finally, American companies should demand the extension of reciprocity in their relationships with their Chinese colleagues. Only through more open and equal exchanges, States could rely on the transformation of the Chinese secret operations sharp force in the operation of a genuinely soft power, where each country gains access and influence in another country in a transparent manner.

Apparently, in the foreseeable future China will remain the main rival of America in the struggle for global power and influence. But this does not mean that the two countries should maintain relations threat of competition. On the contrary, they need to choose a policy of constructive engagement, which supports fair competition, provides an opportunity to engage in mutually beneficial cooperation and to keep peace between the two largest powers on the planet.


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