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Report Notes China’s Influence in the US

Undergraduate student Moe Lewis, left, shows her watercolor painting of peony leaves at a traditional Chinese painting class at the Confucius Institute at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., on May 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthew Pennington)
Report Notes China's Influence in the US
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China is launching an “extensive and well-funded” effort to influence American politics and society, a new report says.

The report, Chinese Influence & American Interests, was written by leading experts on China for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.

Its release comes as the U.S. and China dispute their trade relationship and compete for influence around the world.

Larry Diamond and Orville Schell led the creation of the report. They noted that China’s latest effort began when Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 as the Communist Party’s general secretary. They said China sought to establish its influence and to present a “China option” as a more efficient economic development model than liberal democracy.

People walk past a large videoscreen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip to the United States from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in an office building in Beijing, Sept. 25, 2015.
People walk past a large videoscreen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip to the United States from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in an office building in Beijing, Sept. 25, 2015.

The report said China is using America’s openness to increase its influence while limiting American’s efforts to connect with Chinese society.

Winston Lord, a former Ambassador to China, helped write the report. He said, “This report I think is a microcosm of the current status of US-Chinese relations generally. It’s a fairly ominous landscape and I think it mirrors an ominous crossroads in US-Chinese relations.”

The report’s findings on China’s influence

The report said China seeks to influence rising U.S. politicians and gain influence with members of Congress. Chinese companies admit that they spent $3.8 million to support issues with lawmakers in 2017.

In some rare examples, China used private citizens and companies to make contributions to U.S. elections. For example, Wang Wenliang, a Chinese businessman contributed $120,000 to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s campaign.

In the Chinese-American community, China has sought to silence critics of its policies and supporters of Taiwan by pressuring their relatives in mainland China.

In education, China opened 110 Confucius Institutes at colleges and 501 Confucius Classrooms in high schools around the U.S. The institutes aim to provide students and communities with Chinese language and culture. However, they are required to use Communist Party-approved materials and to avoid any discussion of Tibet, Tiananmen Square, Xinjiang, the Falun Gong or human rights.

Several universities, including the University of Chicago, Penn State University and Texas A&M, have closed the institutes at their schools because of the restrictions.

During the 2017–2018 academic year, a record 350,755 Chinese students attended American universities and another 80,000 attended high schools. But some members of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association have been accused of spying on other Chinese students and American teachers.

Yang Shuping's comments were widely shared in China. She then received email threats and her family in China was harassed.
Yang Shuping's comments were widely shared in China. She then received email threats and her family in China was harassed.

A public example took place last year at the University of Maryland. Chinese student Yang Shuping spoke at the school’s graduation and praised the “fresh air of free speech” in the U.S. compared to China. Her comments were widely shared in China. She then received email threats and her family in China was harassed.

The report noted that the U.S. is open to Chinese scholars. It said that China, however, “restricts access to American scholars and researchers seeking to study politically sensitive areas of China’s political system, society, and history in country.”

In 2007, China launched its “Grand Overseas Propaganda Campaign.” The official Xinhua News Agency expanded around the world from 120 offices to more than 200 offices. The state-owned China Global Television Network currently broadcasts in seven languages. Its American operations include one broadcast in English, 12 in Mandarin Chinese, two in Cantonese and one in Hokkien.

At the same time, the Chinese government has blocked American and Western media organizations in the country. Many foreign reporters have said that they have experienced harassment and physical violence during their work in China. Some have had difficulties renewing their visas. Others have learned that their Chinese contacts have been detained by officials for speaking with them.

In business, the report said China uses its companies to support its interests and gain important technologies. The U.S. House of Representatives declared Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE a national security threat in 2012. The two companies have been accused of bribery and spying in Africa.

American companies with investments in China are often forced to transfer technology to local businesses. China has also been accused of stealing new technology through its investments in U.S. companies and through the openness of American university research.

Actor Matt Damon stars in "The Martian."
Actor Matt Damon stars in "The Martian."

American culture, including music and movies, has long been the country’s most popular export to China and the world. In recent years, China has become an important market for ticket sales and of financing for Hollywood movies. This has led to several examples of self-censorship to positively present China.

In the 2012 movie "Red Dawn," MGM studio digitally altered the invading Chinese army into one from North Korea. The change came after criticism from the Chinese state-owned Global Times.

"The Martian" is a popular 2015 movie made with Chinese investment. The main character, played by Matt Damon, was the only survivor after an explosion on Mars. And he was finally saved by the China National Space Administration.

The report added that China’s effort goes beyond the U.S. It says the activities are taking place around the world. Australia, Africa and Latin America are some of the places. The effort appears to be even more developed in Asia and Europe.

More than 30 China experts helped write the report which also received support from the Annenberg Foundation Trust.

I'm Alice Bryant. And I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English based on Hoover Institution report. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

fund –v. to provide money for something

efficient - adj. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

option –n. something that can be chosen, a choice or possibility

microcosm –n. something that is seen as a small version of something much larger

status - n. the current state of someone or something

landscape - n. a particular area of activity

mirror - v. to be very similar to (something)

ominous –adj. suggesting that something bad is going to happen in the future

contribute - v. to give (something, such as money, goods, or time) to help a person, group, cause, or organization

academic - adj. of or relating to schools and education

harass –v. to annoy or bother someone repeatedly

bribery –n. the act of giving money to get someone to do something, often that is unlawful

transfer –n. the act of moving something from one place to another

self-censorship –n. not writing, saying or showing something because it is believed that a group disapproves of it

digitally - adv. using computer technology

alter –v. to change something

character - n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show