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How China Is Trying to Turn the U.S. against Itself

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Across the country, Beijing has worked to cultivate relationships with state and local governments and private businesses in an effort to advance its agenda.

As Congress advances a set of bills to protect against Beijing’s efforts to subvert American democracy, China is using our system of government to block and tackle. On November 12, Reuters reported that Chinese officials have been pressuring American companies, executives, and trade groups to lobby against the legislation, threatening to reduce their share of the Chinese market if the bills pass. Unfortunately, such attempts to turn the U.S. system of government against itself are not new, or unusual. And they take place at the subnational as well as national levels.

In 2015, Xi Jinping visited the United States for the first time since becoming general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). During the trip, Xi made the requisite appearance at the White House and attended the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in New York. But those stops were not Xi’s priority. Instead, his first stop was in Seattle, where he attended the third China–U.S. Governors Forum.

The CCP has cemented a subversive influence apparatus across the United States. Xi’s visit to Seattle offers a roadmap of that apparatus: its pervasive presence, its targets, its sprawling objectives, and the cross-cutting mechanisms by which it achieves them. During his two days in Seattle, Xi prioritized three main groups: leading U.S. companies and their executives, local organizations dedicated to fostering closer U.S.–China ties, and, especially, state- and local-level government officials.

The CCP’s active-measures toolkit would make the Soviet Union drool. Beijing directs that toolkit at state and local elected officials, as well as the business, media, and nonprofit sectors. The Reuters report offered just the most recent example of the CCP’s subnational strategy, which is accelerating: Beijing has identified the vulnerable nodes through which it might defeat tough federal China legislation, and U.S. state, local, and nongovernmental actors are largely blind to the threat. Continue Reading

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