Beijing rejects US report on its influence operations in America

Beijing has rejected a 213-page report by US scholars that warned of organised Chinese influence in the US and asked American institutions to be more vigilant. China said the US needs more confidence in itself.

Responding to a question about the report, written by 32 prominent Western experts, Chinese Ministry of Finance spokesman Geng Shuang said China had undertaken 40 years of reform and opened its doors to foreign companies, media, think-tanks and students, including those from the US.

"We hope that the US side, as the world's No. 1 power, can do likewise," Mr Geng said at a regular press conference.

"China often says we have Four Confidences; we hope the US can have its own version of this too," he said, referring to the Chinese doctrine of confidence in its chosen path, political system, guiding theories and culture.

Attempts to restrict the flow of Chinese students to the United States also go against the historical trend of globalisation, Mr Geng said.

This was in response to reports that Washington is considering deeper vetting and shorter visas for those studying in sensitive fields like aviation and robotics, which US officials said is to curb the risk of spying and theft of intellectual property in areas vital to national security.

"Any attempt to artificially create obstacles to normal exchanges between peoples is destined to be unpopular and unsuccessful," he said.

Yesterday, state-run media echoed the official line that the US was again exaggerating the perceived threat from China, largely because the US' own attempts over the decades to influence China had failed.

 
 

The Global Times tabloid said the portrayal of China penetrating the US "is completely incompatible with China's objective aspirations", and that the sole purpose of China's outward engagement is to reduce Western misunderstanding towards China and to deepen China's friendly cooperation with the outside world.

Instead, the US is feeling Chinese influence through inexpensive products that "embody Chinese culture and values such as competitiveness that have made Western society feel heavy pressure", it said in an editorial.

"Simply put, the US' strategic self-confidence has been eroded by China's rise," it said. "That is why they look at the same China-US relationship and see something completely different." It said this was the biggest cause of the US anxiety.

Chinese experts told The Straits Times that US-China engagement has always been to each other's mutual benefit - and not out of altruism - but that there is disillusionment today because some quarters of US society had thought they could influence China's rise.

"There has never been 'innocent engagement' with China," said Peking University professor Jia Qingguo, quoting from the report. "The US has always engaged China with different motives such as economic, strategic or values-based considerations."

The report showed frustration within a segment of the US' China-watching intelligentsia that expected China to open up at a pace the US could dictate, which is unrealistic, he added.

Renmin University's Professor Jin Canrong agreed: "The US was confident it could influence China, but when they realised they could not, they became very worried."

Noting that the report did not go beyond the hawkish stance on China of some within the Trump administration, Prof Jin said it was unlikely to have an impact on the Trump-Xi meeting taking place on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting this weekend.

But it shows that "the current atmosphere in the US towards China is not really good, and has reached the point of overreaction", he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2018, with the headline 'Beijing rejects US report on its influence operations in America'. Print Edition | Subscribe