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Beijing pushes hard to influence US views of China, reports NPR

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, in November of last year.

Andrew Harnik / AP

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Andrew Harnik / AP

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, in November of last year.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Beijing has launched an aggressive influence campaign targeting several levels of American society, according to a report released Thursday by some of the best Chinese experts in the United States.

The working group that compiled the report includes academics who have for decades agreed that as long as the United States continues to engage with the People's Republic of China, the paths of the two countries would eventually converge and, if so, the Chinese political system would become more transparent. and his society more open.

However, while the Chinese economy has reached unprecedented highs, President Xi Jinping has consolidated his power and in the eyes of the report's authors, the idea of ​​convergence has been put aside.

A different path

By the time Xi entered office in 2012, China "has begun to take a very different path," said Orville Schell, a researcher in China who co-chaired the task force that produced the 200-page report. Chinese influence and American interests.

Schell explained that before Xi, Chinese leaders considered their country to be in transition, but since the ascendency of Xi, China is more internally perceived as a country in its own right.

"The idea of ​​engagement then took on a whole different character," he says.

The report is sponsored by the Stanford University Hoover Institution, the Sunnylands Annenberg Foundation Trust, and the Asia-US Relations Center of the Asia Society in New York, led by Schell. The authors claim that the Chinese Communist Party has launched a campaign to influence the United States as part of a broader expansion of Xi's aggressive policies.

"These policies are not just about redefining China's place in the world as a global player," says the report, but to promote an "option of China" around the world as a "model". more efficient development "in the same way. that Soviet Russia was seeking to present itself as a viable alternative to Western liberal democracies during the Cold War.

Schell said that when China abolished its presidential term early in the year, thus allowing Xi to govern indefinitely, it became a metaphor for the expansion of power and power exercised by the leader in China. Inside and outside of China, firmly placing his country in a separate position. , way competing with the United States

The extent of the influence

The report examines eight different sectors of American society that the Chinese government is trying to influence, including the US Congress, local governments, universities and businesses. Although almost all of the examples cited have been widely covered by the media and academia, the report aims to add a historical context for involving them and to make concrete suggestions to the US government and institutions on how to deal with the growing threat.

One section of the report examines the huge sums of money the Chinese government and Communist Party Chinese are investing in American universities.

"[Very] often, this money will not come with explicit prohibitions, but with implicit bans, "said Schell.

"[If] you want to get more money, do not say that, do not say that. In other words, "he said, as a result, China aims to" modulate and control what people say about it and how they see it ".

With the help of dozens of US universities, the Chinese government has created 110 Confucius Institutes on campuses across the United States. The institutes are obliged to use documents approved by the Communist Party "that promote the views, terminology and simplified characters of the PRC in Chinese, avoid discussions on controversial topics such as Tibet, Tiananmen , Xinjiang, etc. Falun Gong and human rights in American classrooms and programs, "the report says.

Several American universities, such as the University of Chicago and the Texas A & M system, had doubts about the Confucius Institutes and closed their branches. The report suggests that US institutions rewrite their contracts with their Chinese government partner by removing a clause stating that Confucius institutes must operate in accordance with Chinese laws.

China and Hollywood

Another section examines how Hollywood is under the influence of Chinese investments and, as a result, regularly produces films describing in a favorable light the Chinese government. While in 1997, movies such as Red Corner, Seven years in Tibet, and Kundun The Chinese government has judged sensitive topics. Hollywood studios are now partnering with Chinese partners to make films such as The Martian, a blockbuster hit by Chinese money in which the Chinese government rescued the American protagonists.

"The rush of Chinese investment in the US film industry," the report concludes, "has raised legitimate concerns about the total loss of industry independence."

Schell said that after a year and a half of research, he and his team had come to the conclusion "that the relationship between the United States and China in terms of influence is not reciprocal. "he says. "The US public company is accustomed to Chinese purposes in many ways that are not available to Americans in China."

For example, US universities do not have the same access to China as Beijing and the Chinese media can operate freely in the United States, while US journalists are severely restricted in China. The report's authors suggest that visas for visiting Chinese scholars and journalists be redirected unless American scholars and journalists can operate more freely within China.

The report's solutions encourage the US government and society to be more transparent in their dealings with Chinese institutions. When Beijing limits the rights of US institutions inside China, the United States should consider doing the same with Chinese institutions located on US soil.

He also urges Americans to act with integrity when actors sponsored by the Chinese state attempt to coerce or manipulate the fundamental principles of America. "Openness and freedom are fundamental elements of American democracy and the intrinsic strengths of the United States and its way of life," the report concludes. "These values ​​must be protected against corrosive actions from China and other countries."

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