How the Chinese Regime Controls Chinese Abroad

How the Chinese Regime Controls Chinese Abroad
Chinese workers of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) work in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, on Jan. 30, 2010. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)
Frank Fang
It is well-known that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rules with an iron fist, with party organizations at all levels of society. Recently, the push to establish party organs has extended to foreign companies and foreign-funded universities inside China.  
It’s not as apparent how the Party exerts control over its citizens abroad. A recent article by Global Times, China’s nationalistic state-run publication, shows how overseas Chinese continue to live under the shadow of the Party. A recent incident at the University of California, Davis—where mainland Chinese scholars established a party branch but scrapped it after fearing that it may have violated U.S. federal law—was just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the CCP’s influence on Chinese citizens living abroad.
According to the Global Times article published on Nov. 28, the National University of Defense Technology, one of China’s top military academies, established eight overseas Party branches for its exchange students and scholars in 2012. Citing the PLA Daily, the official publication of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the article stated that a Party branch helps overseas Chinese students “resist the corrosive influence of harmful ideologies” in the West.
Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) has a student Party branch for its overseas exchange students in Mexico, Chile, and European countries, including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. Wang Xinyu, the head of the Spanish branch who currently studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid, said Chinese students in the branch wrote reports about their thoughts. A thorough report usually consists of a person’s views and opinions about the Chinese Communist Party, and is a means of determining whether the person is loyal to the Party.  
“On a regular basis, we study Party theory according to the requirements of our higher Party branch in China,” Wang told The Global Times.
Besides foreign colleges and universities, Chinese companies doing business in foreign countries through the One Belt One Road Initiative—an infrastructure project and trading network promoted by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, based on the ancient Silk Road connecting China with Eurasian countries—also established their own local Party branches.
Citing a report from state-run media Guangming Daily, the Global Times reported that Zheng Xuexuan, vice president of the state-owned construction company, China State Construction Engineering Corporation, thought a Party branch for employees was necessary to monitor their thinking and ensure they toe the Party line.
“It is easy for their thoughts to fluctuate, posing challenges to ideological and political work,” Zheng told Guangming Daily.  
Meanwhile, the Chinese regime has pushed for foreign companies doing business in China to establish Party organizations within their firms. According to the CCP, those organizations can take part in the company’s decision making, to ensure business activities are in line with China’s policies.
German firms operating in China have recently voiced concern, via the Delegations of German Industry and Commerce. A statement published on the organization’s website on Nov. 24 says, “We have observed that business decisions without outside interference are a strong basis for innovation and growth.”
“Should these attempts to influence foreign invested companies continue, it cannot be ruled out that German companies might retreat from the Chinese market or reconsider investment strategies,” the statement reads.
Contrary to the less favorable business environment in China, German companies continue to have confidence in their investments in Taiwan, according to the latest annual business confidence survey published by German Trade Office Taipei on Nov. 30.
The survey found that 39 percent of the companies plan to invest at a new location in Taiwan within the next two years, while 67 percent found Taiwanese authorities to be either friendly or very friendly towards business.
While mainland China continues to live under one-party rule, the Taiwanese have enjoyed a democratic government since the 1990s. The business environment is likewise more free.
“[In Taiwan], a system based on democracy and freedom, the cooperation between industry and the government is the basis for future development,” said Axel Limberg, executive director of the German Trade Office Taipei, in an interview with New Tang Dynasty Television Asia Pacific (NTDTV AP), adding that he hasn’t seen the Taiwan authorities interfering with foreign businesses.
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
Related Topics