As we approach Election Day on Tuesday, Americans remain rightly concerned with the potential of Russian election interference.
But while it is clear that Russia is an adversary – and is actively attempting to sow discord among Americans – we should keep our eyes on China as well, because that nation is targeting our way of life through a broad-based manipulation strategy.
China and its Communist Party are mounting a whole-of-nation, government-led effort to weaken our nation’s institutions and our values in order to strengthen their own malicious ambitions.
As the classic Chinese essay “Thirty-Six Stratagems” affirmed: “Charm and ingratiate yourself with your enemy. When you have gained his trust, move against him in secret.”
This behavior from China is nothing new. As a former federal attorney for the Department of Justice, I became intimately familiar with Chinese efforts to influence our political processes and policies when I prosecuted Johnny Chung.
In 1996 Chung – at the behest of China and its military intelligence apparatus – donated $366,000 to the Democratic Party in order to gain privileged access to influence U.S. policy towards China.
Chung acknowledged: “I see the White House is like a subway. You have to put in coins to open the gates.”
After almost 50 visits to the White House, Chung was finally convicted – but only of two misdemeanor counts of conspiring to violate U.S. election law.
Twenty years after the Chung case, China’s ambitions have only accelerated and expanded, fueled by the nation’s growing wealth. China’s subversion can be found in the repression it exports through the media we consume, the innovation it procures and steals, and the speech it censors. This subversion is pervasive, even within our political, military, business and academic institutions.
In the last two years alone, China Daily – a Chinese Communist Party publication that has arrived on my doorstep on far too many occasions – has spent almost $20 million to influence the American public, along with our political and business leaders.
Along with China’s Promotion of Peaceful Unification and its 30 chapters scattered across the United States, China’s Communist Party seeks to disseminate its disinformation directly to the American people.
In an effort to target American business, the Chinese participated in 10 to 16 percent of all U.S. venture capital deals between 2015 and 2017. This has granted China access to our nation’s groundbreaking research in artificial intelligence, robotics and other innovative technologies that it can use for its police state.
This effort is aided by the surreptitious Chinese theft of intellectual property from our nation’s brightest innovators, which according to the U.S. trade representative reaches upwards of $600 billion annually.
Your constitutional rights are not out of reach either. In 2015, according to cybersecurity researchers, Chinese hackers attacked free speech in the United States. These hackers conducted a sustained cyberattack against U.S. content that China deemed seditious to its censorship of freedom.
This censorship extends to our universities, where China’s propaganda machine – led by its United Front Work Department – seeks to “win support for China’s political goals, accumulate influence overseas, and gather key information.”
China also leverages its Confucius Institutes, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and other academic-related organizations to identify and prevent Chinese criticism on American campuses – while promoting the Chinese Communist Party and its hopeless ideologies.
And China’s reach into the U.S. extends even further. China is targeting the livelihood of many American by placing retaliatory tariffs overwhelmingly on products produced and grown in areas that voted for President Trump.
In addition, there are the countless agents lurking within our nation’s institutions that seek to undermine the foundations of our republic on behalf of the Chinese government.
Most troubling are the nearly 3,000 recruits of China’s Thousand Talents Program, whose goal is to “facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of U.S. technology, intellectual property and know-how” from our businesses and universities to China.
The actions of this program include implanting an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security – that nation’s civilian intelligence organization – into the office of a U.S. senator for almost two decades. This agent served as the senator’s driver, getting unprecedented access to sensitive, personal information of one of our most senior government officials.
In addition, a recently arrested U.S. Army reservist in Chicago, who is a Chinese national, allegedly attempted to recruit U.S. defense contractors at the directive of the Chinese government.
All this is deeply unnerving.
It should come as no surprise that FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that “China from a counterintelligence perspective represents the broadest, most pervasive, most threatening challenge we face as a country.”
And the United States is not alone in China’s targeting.
Our close allies, Australia and New Zealand, are victims of this same manipulation strategy. According to the Australian government, the Chinese Communist Party has spent the last decade attempting to influence every level of Australia’s government and politics.
In fact, an astonishing 80 percent of foreign political donations to Australia’s national political parties emanated from China from 2000 to 2016. In New Zealand, a member of parliament was revealed to have worked for the Chinese military!
And I’d be remiss to not highlight the Chinese people who are all too familiar with this malevolence at home, where over 1 million of the nation’s Muslims are forced into internment camps in Western China where they are indefinitely detained – a gross abuse of human rights.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Chinese population is entrapped under constant surveillance in an Orwellian state facilitated by China’s expanding technology sector that is in part airlifted from American innovation.
Congress, President Trump and our executive agencies have taken recent actions to stem these threats.
These actions include: strengthening the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States; requiring China’s Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network to register as foreign agents; banning Chinese-made Huawei and ZTE phones from military bases; placing tariffs on China in response to intellectual property theft; and investigating China’s continued espionage efforts targeting our country.
Still more must be done. We must, as a nation, awaken to this threat from China. Every business, every university, and every American must stand up to this threat in order to protect and guarantee our way of life, our democracy, and our republic.
As President John F. Kennedy declared: “If the self-discipline of the free cannot match the iron discipline of the mailed fist – in economic, political, scientific and all other kinds of struggles as well as the military – then the peril to freedom will continue to rise.”
Make no mistake, we are in a great power competition with China in much the same way as we were with the former Soviet Union. As a nation, we defeated the repression that the Soviets sought to export to the United States and around the world. And so it is critical as a nation that we stand up to China.
Historically, it was U.S. policy to keep an open door to China as others sought to exploit that nation. Maybe, it’s time for America to close this door.