The Chinese regime has stepped up its “vaccine diplomacy” push around the world, with about 80 countries and three international organizations signing up to receive China-made vaccines, according to Chinese authorities.
These efforts are an extension of a long-running campaign by Beijing to increase its influence around the globe, experts say. Internal documents obtained by The Epoch Times also detail how the regime has previously sought to sway elites in the United States, Central, and South American through front groups.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered a video speech to the Colombian people at the invitation of Colombian President Ivan Duque, when the third batch of COVID-19 vaccines provided by China arrived on March 20.
David Castrillon, a professor at the Externado University of Colombia and member of the Colombia-China Friendship Association, told Chinese state-run media Xinhua, “The vaccine is essential for the economy of our country. We have a very weak economy at the moment due to COVID-19.”
Days ago, Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, warned members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about China’s heavy-handed vaccine diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean during the pandemic.
“[China] they’re using vaccines to leverage deals for their 5G, and they’re using it to drive a wedge between some nations in the region,” Faller said on March 16.
China was eroding U.S. influence in the region, he added.
Exclusive: The Role of Chinese Chambers of Commerce in the US
Internal documents (pdf) obtained by The Epoch Times show that the CCP has been penetrating the United States for years through Chinese civil organizations. It also has been active in influencing countries in Central and South America.
In mid-May 2016, the American Chinese Commerce Development Association (ACCDA), a U.S. civil organization, invited the “Embrace China” art troupe of nine members to tour Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil, for cultural performances.
The troupe was led by Zhao Jihong, vice president of the Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (FROC) Liaoning Province.
The Liaoning FROC is under the direct leadership of the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the CCP. It is also a member of the All China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (AFROC).
The website of the ACCDA (www.usccda.org) is now defunct.
According to the Internet Archive‘s backup pages, the ACCDA ties closely to Chinese embassies and consulates, suggesting a link to the UFWD.
The CCP’s united front system is subject to influence organizations outside the party, particularly those representing civil society, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported in June 2020.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping called the United Front one of the Party’s “magic weapons.” By expanding the United Front, the department carries out foreign political infiltration, suppresses dissident movements, gathers intelligence, and facilitates the technology transfer to China.
On Nov. 20, 2014, Honorary Adviser of ACCDA Chiu PuiYIP was invited to attend former President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan conference in Washington, the Internet Archive shows.
On Feb. 11, 2015, the ACCDA joined a Chinese New Year reception hosted by the Chinese Consulate General in New York. Both Li Xiong, Executive Vice President of the ACCDA, and Consulate General of the Chinese Consulate General in New York Zhang Qiyue attended the reception.
The 2016 invitation letter sent to the Liaoning FROC’s performance group was issued by Li Xiong. The document reveals that ACCDA would cover food, accommodation, travel, and reception expenses for the troupe during the five-day visit.
The Epoch Times reached out to ACCDA for comment on their relationship to the UFWD and their role in China’s global expansion.
Many overseas Chinese communities, student bodies have long been accused of being engaging in the CCP’s influence efforts.
Newsweek reported in October 2020 that over 600 U.S. groups were branches of the United Front Organizations manipulated by the CCP, exerting influence on the United States. These include hometown associations, chambers of commerce, friendship associations, Chinese language media, Chinese students and scholars associations, and Beijing-backed Confucius Institutes.
Influence in the US’s Back Yard
Neighbors of the United States are threatened by Beijing’s attempts at subversion, shown from internal documents.
On March 11, Faller described China’s growing influence in Southcom as a “concerning trend.”
“Beijing now has 29 government exchange programs with Latin America and the Caribbean, and continues to expand offers of professional military education, equipment donations, and funding for infrastructure projects,” Faller said in written testimony (pdf).
In Mexico, the Zhonghua Business Association (Zhonghua Mexico), made up of Chinese companies, entrepreneurs, and business groups, has facilitated Chinese officials’ visits and exchange events since it was founded in 2010.
The “independent, autonomous, and self-sustainable” association is officially registered with the Chinese Embassy in Mexico and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, implying that it falls under the leadership of the UFWD.
The association lists several activities online that involved interaction with the Chinese government.
For example, on June 3, 2019, the government of Zhongshan city, a Chinese city in Guangdong Province, held an investment and economic promotion event in Mexico, which was hosted by the local Zhonghua Mexico.
The Sichuan Province FROC visited Zhonghua Mexico on June 27, 2019. A meeting of overseas Chinese leaders was held at the association’s office.
On July 30, 2019, Zhonghua Mexico, the Mexican Chinese Youth United Association, the Mexican Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce, and the Mexican Wenzhou Chamber of Commerce were invited to attend the reception of the 92nd anniversary of the founding of the CCP’s army, People’s Liberation Army, held by the Chinese Embassy in Mexico.
On August 24, 2019, a delegation from the government of Taishan City visited Zhonghua Mexico. Leaders of Zhonghua Mexico, the Mexican Chinese Youth United Association, and the Mexican Canton Chamber of Commerce received the delegation at the association’s office.
On Dec. 16, 2019, a Shandong economic and trade delegation visited Zhonghua Mexico, hosted by President Jin Jiachi and Ye Tianhui, the president of the Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce in Mexico.
The Epoch Times reached out to Zhonghua Mexico for comment.
Current affairs commentator Li Linyi told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that from Colombia to Mexico, Beijing was stepping up its infiltration and has invaded the backyard of the United States.
He considers Xi’s speech to Colombia as a direct provocation to the United States by publicly exaggerating China’s influence through “vaccine diplomacy” in Central and South America.
The Biden administration’s non-conflict policy towards the Chinese regime was taken advantage of, Li said.