Chinese Regime Seeks to Limit Debate in West, Out of Self-Preservation


WASHINGTON—After decades of a failed policy of “engaging China,” democracies around the world are facing the reverse situation.

The West is no longer engaging China to promote liberal reforms there, but instead is aiming to safeguard democracies from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s authoritarian and corrupt influence.

The goal of the CCP is to maintain its rule inside China, and so it needs to make the world safe for the CCP, according to Jonas Parello-Plesner, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

“That really lies behind their interference and influence activities,” Parello-Plesner said. “That often means limiting the parameters of the debate about China in Western democratic governments and civil society, so that they do not pose a threat to the CCP.”

Parello-Plesner said that one of the “magic weapons” of the CCP is the United Front strategy, “which relies equally on corrupting Chinese diaspora communities, and on building relationships with Western enablers to make ‘foreigners’ serve the Chinese Communist Party.”

“United Front targets range from prominent politicians and businesspeople to academics, students, and the broader public,” Parello-Plesner said. “With deep coffers and the help of Western enablers, the CCP uses money, rather than Communist ideology, as a powerful source of influence, creating the parasitic relationships of long-term dependence that we see at universities, newspapers, and many other Western institutions.”

Parello-Plesner took part in the panel discussion “The Chinese Communist Party Interference Abroad and How to Respond,” as part of the symposium “China’s Global Challenge to Democratic Freedom“ at the Hudson Institute in Washington on Oct. 24.

In a discussion about the CCP’s influence operations in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the two countries’ responses, Peter Mattis, a research fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said one of the main differences is public debate and awareness.

“The biggest difference between Australia and the United States on this issue, is that they’ve had six to 10 reporters, not just their China correspondents, but also domestic investigative reporters who’ve looked at this. Six to 10 reporters over 10 years. In the United States, we have three reporters who have written more than once for mainstream English publications, and they’ve been doing it for less than one year.”

Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, who has held a range of positions at the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council, discussed the difference between the interference by Russia and the CCP.

Laura Rosenberger, Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, speaks at Hudson Institute in Washington on Oct. 24, 2018 (York Du/The Epoch Times)
Laura Rosenberger, Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, speaks at Hudson Institute in Washington on Oct. 24, 2018 (York Du/The Epoch Times)

“Weakening others is the primary goal of Putin’s operations, combined with maintaining and strengthening his own power. That contrasts very sharply with what we see with an objectively rising China,” Rosenberger said.

“We see an increasing assertiveness from Chinese leadership, and a desire to shape the world around China, in a way that is beneficial to China’s future in the long run. But because of this, the Chinese strategy is a much more long-term one. The time horizon for Beijing is simply longer. Its outlook is much longer.”

Juan Pablo Cardenal, a researcher at the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America’s Advisory Council, shared his knowledge about the CCP’s influence operations in Latin America, where people know very little about the CCP and fall more easily into its traps.

“They’ve identified people that are influential in their own fields, with the purpose of attracting them and drawing them closer to the CCP.” Cardenal said. “I am talking about opinion leaders, journalists, politicians, congressmen, scholars, etc.”

After these people were identified, the CCP invited them to take “training programs,” which included traveling to China and getting a lot of special treatment, such as meeting high-ranking officials, CEOs, and sightseeing, with an abundance of good food and entertainment.

“Although they called it ‘training,’ it is just a way of exposing these influential people to the CCP propaganda,” Cardenal said. “A number of those people who have been invited to China, when they returned home, they disseminated the CCP’s views through their own platforms.”

There was a consensus during the discussion that democratic countries should form their own “United Front” to counter the CCP’s sharp and soft powers.

Such an alliance could share knowledge of the CCP’s operations and tactics, and expose more thoroughly the CCP’s “covert, corrupt and coercive” interference and influence operations. When evaluating a Chinese entity, this alliance would need to judge whether it aligns with the values of the CCP or of the West. The West shouldn’t work with those that promote the CCP’s views.