China’s Tactics of Influence in Foreign Countries

China is a sovereign country, the same as any other independent and the world must respect this. What is unique about China is their willingness to use any means to exert their influence far beyond Chinese jurisdiction. I see that here in Canada, but there are reports of the same tactics being used in Australia and New Zealand.

Tactics include:
Funding education programs that have a pro-Chinese viewpoint
There is great concern here in Canada about their funding tactics. While it is great to encourage the study of Mandarin language, China is using this platform to teach a pro-Chinese viewpoint to very young kids. More than worrisome, this is meddling in the internal affairs of Canada. The Toronto District School Board had signed an agreement with this group, but the decision was reversed.

We do have heritage language classes in a wide variety of languages, but none should be influenced by a foreign government. Such meddlesome tactics by a foreign government irks the majority of Canadians.

Confucius Institute (Chinese: 孔子学院; pinyin: Kǒngzǐ Xuéyuàn) is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, whose aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges…
However, unlike these organizations, many Confucius Institutes operate directly on university campuses, thus giving rise to unique concerns related to academic freedom and political influence source.

Soft threatening publishing companies in foreign countries, to influence them to not publish any content that may be contrary to Chinese views

China had demanded that Cambridge University Press remove specific articles that China deemed inappropriate. Cambridge University Press declined. When it comes to academic freedom, knowledge is knowledge. There is no room for politics. Springer Nature, however, acquiesced.

In August, public pressure spurred a hasty reversal of Cambridge University Press’ decision to comply with Chinese censorship demands. Last week, The Financial Times’ Ben Bland reported that German publisher Springer, whose journals include Nature and Scientific American, had removed at least 1,000 articles, and perhaps many more. As in the CUP case, the list of targeted articles appears to have been haphazardly assembled based on crude searches for sensitive keywords, including many uncritical or tangentially related pieces as a result. Once again, scholars have reacted angrily to the encroachment on academic freedom, particularly in light of Springer’s expanding business interests in China from plans to publish a book by Xi Jinping to a new educational partnership with Chinese tech giant Tencent. source

I do agree that these filters are only keywords and do not take context into consideration. I am sure that many unintended article are also banned. As Chinese scholars should have access to and use all the world’s available knowledge, this is disadvantageous. Maybe this is why so many rely on VPN?

More recently an Australian publishing house has delayed a book release of an Australian author, on the grounds of legal threats from the Chinese Government.

An uproar followed an Australian publisher’s decision to postpone the release of a book by Clive Hamilton, who says Beijing is actively working to silence China’s critics. NYT.

An uproar followed an Australian publisher’s decision to postpone the release of a book by Clive Hamilton, who says Beijing is actively working to silence China’s critics. NYT.

“The decision by Allen & Unwin to stall publication of this book almost proves the point that there’s an undue level of Chinese influence in Australia,” said Prof. Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University. Allen & Unwin is one of Australia’s largest publishers…

Mr. Hamilton said the decision had been made for fear of angering Beijing, and shows China’s ability to limit what information Australians can see — exactly the sort of influence that he said he warned about in his book.

“This is the first case, I believe, where a major Western publisher has decided to censor material critical of China in its home country,” Mr. Hamilton said in an interview. “Many people are deeply offended by this attack on free speech, and people see a basic value that defines Australia being undermined…”

However, Mr. Hamilton has disclosed an email that he said was sent to him on Nov. 8 by Allen & Unwin’s chief executive, Robert Gorman. The email explained the decision to delay the book’s release: “April 2018 was too soon to publish the book and allow us to adequately guard against potential threats to the book and the company from possible action by Beijing.”

Purchased influence of foreign political leaders
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really loves China and has vowed to go ahead with further trade deals. He has attended many cash for access dinners.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the top draw at a $1,500 Liberal Party cash-for-access fundraiser at the mansion of a wealthy Chinese-Canadian business executive in May. One of the guests at the event was a well-heeled donor who was seeking Ottawa’s final approval to begin operating a new bank aimed at Canada’s Chinese community.

Similar tactics are now being used in Australia, where Chinese businessmen have paid for access to politicians. Australian Intelligence, as with Canadian Intelligence, has raised concerns, seemingly to deaf domestic politician’s ears.

One of the suits was filed by Chau Chak Wing, a Chinese-Australian businessman who has been a major donor in Australian politics. Dr. Chau is seeking damages from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a TV news report that the suit says damaged his personal and professional reputation.

That report, which was shown on a popular current affairs program, said the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the domestic spy agency, had warned political parties against accepting contributions from two ethnic Chinese, of whom one was Dr. Chau, because of what the report called ties to the Chinese government.

Professor Feng said Australia must decide whether money or values defined its politics. “The question is whether you’re willing to make sacrifices to fight these illiberal tendencies,” he said, in his tiny office near the gleaming Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building on campus. “If you don’t maintain your core values, it’s all just business.” source

Sending Chinese government agents to visit Chinese living abroad who may have legal issues in China and threatening their relatives back in China, in a program called “Fox Hunt”. This has occurred in both the US and Canada.

China’s security services have been sending undercover agents into Canada on tourist visas to strong-arm expatriates to return home, including some suspected of corruption and other criminal activities…

The covert Chinese operation has been going on for years in Canada, according to the insider briefed on the situation. It is part of a global effort by China to repatriate fugitives and recover money stolen by Communist party officials or employees of state-owned enterprises.

U.S. diplomats warned China in 2015 to stop using its security agents on American soil to pressure Chinese citizens to return home to face its court system. source

It seems like if China does not feel other countries are cooperating with them they have no issues illegally entering foreign countries in order to co-opt their citizens into returning to China. This is illegal when done on a foreign country, and China knows this. China has gone further with geographically closer countries such as Thailand, where a bookseller was abducted from his home in Thailand and reappeared in a jail in China.

Canada cannot tolerate such transgressions by China on our native soil. This is clearly illegal in Canada. One of the issues preventing an extradition treaty with China is China’s blatant human rights violations and their use of torture in order to get a confession.

“The idea of an extradition treaty with communist China, with one of the worst human rights records in the world, is a prima facie violation of the Charter of Rights,” said former Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney. source

Hypocritical, from the same government that receives huge payments for a one-on-one dinner with Chinese businessmen.

In a front-page story, the China Daily cited a source in China’s Ministry of Public Security who admitted its agents had traveled abroad in an attempt to “persuade” suspects “to come back to confess their crimes”. However, the source insisted such agents were strict about doing so on “official visas”…

During a visit last year to the Beijing headquarters of China’s anti-corruption agency, Brown [Kerry Brown, the director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and a former British diplomat in China]said officials had talked about the “innovative investigative methods” being used by its agents.

“Part of that is making up the rules as you go along, part of it is ends justifying means and part of it is making sure that you have always got the upper hand and you are concealing your intentions. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors stuff.”

Brown said Beijing boasting that it was sending agents abroad was most likely intended to impress Chinese citizens but it had not played well with foreign governments.

“China certainly doesn’t like foreign agents operating on Chinese territory, so why on earth should the rest of the world embrace Chinese foreign agents operating on their territory?” he said. source

A new twist is that Chinese government agents attack visiting scholars on Chinese issues. There is no room for the Chinese for differing views.

As the panel concluded, a woman in the audience, without raising her hand to request permission from the moderator to speak, started to shout at me: “What’s your nationality? Are you Chinese? What university did you study at?”

The seemingly irrelevant questions baffled the audience. She then identified herself as a professor at one of the “top universities” in China, and went on to lecture me on the journalistic principles she said she preached to her students: “be objective”, which, by her own words, meant focusing on the positive things, not like me (as well as the other panelists who are not from mainland China), who were “negative and too dark”…

But what is more intimidating now is that, even overseas, no matter how far away, you feel you are still being watched. Educators and speakers in the West have been confronted by a growing number of Chinese students over discussions on China-related topics that do not fit China’s official narrative…

The mechanism to silence criticism abroad is twofold: through organisational control and individual vigilantism. At the organisational level, for example, according to The New York Times, branches of the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations are believed to be connected to Chinese consular officials.

And there are overzealous vigilantes – students who sincerely (or not) feel they have a duty to spy on others for unorthodox speech and action, and need to defend the country’s image in public and report “unpatriotic” people.

Arrest and rendition of booksellers from foreign countries
Very interesting is the case where a Hong Kong bookseller, who is now living in Thailand, suddenly disappeared and then appeared, arrested, in Ningbo. This shows that someone outside of the Thai government went into Thailand and smuggled him back to China. He did not return on his own accord.

The first was Gui Minhai, co-founder of Mighty Current and a Swedish national, who disappeared from his home in the Thai resort of Pattaya in October. He is the only one still being detained in the eastern city of Ningbo. source

Note that cases from Hong Kong are different because Hong Kong was repatriated to China in 1997, but was never given up and considered a foreign land. Therefore anyone born in Hong Kong is considered a native Chinese. China does not recognize dual citizenships, so secondary citizenships from the UK, Sweden or elsewhere mean nothing in China.

A Swedish bookseller who spent more than two years in custody after his suspected abduction by Chinese agents is now “half free”, a friend has claimed, amid suspicions he is still being held under guard by security officials in eastern China.

Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-based publisher who specialised in books about China’s political elite, mysteriously vanished from his Thai holiday home in October 2015. He later reappeared in mainland China where he was imprisoned on charges relating to a deadly drunk-driving incident more than a decade earlier. source

His daughter still fears for his safety, two years later.

Taiwan is also considered a wayward Chinese province by China. How China interprets those that have been born in China is unknown. Taiwan has no diplomatic office in China, so travel by its citizens to China is risky.

Using popular smartphone chat QQ and Wechat software as a surveillance and police investigative tool within China, while this tool is also available to people in foreign countries

Both Windows (v9.2.5478) and Android (v6.3.0.1920) versions of web browser QQ Browser transmit personal user data to QQ servers without encryption or with easily decryptable encryption, and are vulnerable to arbitrary code execution during software updates. source

Wechat censorship and monitoring, source

Wechat group membership has been used in the roundup of human rights lawyers such as Xie Yang. This information must have been given to the Chinese police by Tencent. Within China there is no doubt that your information is not secure. This puts into question the the same platform for international use.

Wechat used to prosecute Xie Yang and hunt down other human rights lawyers: 1, 2, 3, 4

Because China’s new law makes chat group owners legally liable for their group’s content, many group owners are deleting their groups. This is exactly the self-censorship that China desires. Because Wechat has been used in the past to prosecute or implicate people in a police hunt, many people are deleting their group memberships. This is only natural.

Regulations released Sept. 7 [2017] made creators of online groups responsible for managing information within their forums and the behavior of members. While they don’t take effect until October, authorities have jumped into action by disciplining 40 people in one group for spreading petition letters while arresting a man who complained about police raids, according to reports in official Chinese media.source

It is very clear that if you use QQ or Wechat on your phone there is 100% certainty within China and a high probability outside China that your device’s information will be leaked back to China.

Hacking of foreign government organizations by Chinese government hackers

Similar to Russia and North Korea, Chinese state sponsored hackers are difficult to track down and conclusively show who was the perpetrator. China has near infinite funding for such clandestine endeavors.

China’s state-sponsored cyberattack on the National Research Council’s computer infrastructure cost Ottawa hundreds of millions of dollars, according to federal documents that shed light on fallout from the 2014 breach. source

NRC Canada Cybersecurity: Briefing for the Deputy Minister, 2016,  pp23

NRC Canada Cybersecurity: Briefing for the Deputy Minister, 2016, pp23

As with Russia, China denies all of these allegations. This is to be expected. Read the full NRC presentation, which includes the NRC Cyber Security Action Plan, 2015.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a written agreement with the Chinese that we will not hack each other’s countries. Yes, that sounds like a hollow promise.

Punishing Chinese Children for Alleged Transgressions of the Parents
Wang Yu (王宇), a Chinese human rights lawyer with Beijing Fengrui Law Firm was abducted by Chinese police July 9, 2015, in what has been known as the 0709 crackdown. Her son, Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), was heading to Australia to study, passport and visa in hand, when he was denied exit from China. These types of denial of exit are common in China.

Threatening Chinese Activists Who Return to Visit Relatives in China
Returning Chinese activists are often shadowed by police, but threatening their relatives is different

But when a quiet-spoken Chinese dissident travelled to the country of his birth last year, security officers shadowed him for weeks, booking hotel rooms next to his, even following him to breakfast.

Before he left, they also had a disturbingly direct message: Stop condemning the Chinese government to Canadian media, or the family he had come to visit would face the consequences.

“They said if this (critical) story comes out in the Canadian press, then you are responsible for the life of your relatives,” he recalls…

“This is not just a matter of occasional and sporadic incidents,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty Canada, one of the organizations behind the report, along with groups representing Chinese religious, human-rights and ethnic minorities in this country. “There is a consistent pattern … a troubling example of a foreign government being very active in Canada in ways that are undermining human rights.”…

“Most of the Chinese here would have business ties or family back in China, and that itself is holding everything they have in China hostage,” she says. “So people here don’t step out of line.”

We as Canadians, cannot control what happens within China, but we have every right to condemn illegal activity outside of China and especially when this illegal activity occurs on Canadian soil. Be wary and on guard.

Addendum 2017 Dec 19 Espionage Bills in Australia Stir Fears of Anti-Chinese Backlash, As China Rises, Australia Asks Itself: Can It Rely on America?

Addendum 2018 Jan 02 How can democracies counter China’s growing clout

Addendum 2018 Jan 05 Beware the Chinese dragon — investment by China’s state-owned-enterprises will make Canada weaker and poorer

…Beijing talks like it’s open to trade and investment on a commercial basis. But its actions — protected markets, minimal intellectual property rights and heavily subsidized export industries — say otherwise. And its SOEs are key to China’s strategically unfair trade practices.

Addendum 2018 Feb 03 How Chinese overseas students are learning harsh life lessons

Addendum 2018 Mar 16 Wary of China, Europe and Others Push Back on Foreign Takeovers: The pressure tightens as the US, EU, Australia and Canada protect their countries from predatory company purchases of technology from China.

It’s a mixture of political posturing, national pride and outright paranoia. But China presents a difficult policy puzzle. Countries must balance safeguarding their strategic industries and preventing the loss of sensitive technologies, while still courting Chinese investors and improving trade with Beijing.

China Canada trade talks 2017

China Canada trade talks 2017

Addendum 2018 Mar 19 Former top Canadian security officials warn Ottawa to sever links with China’s Huawei: Three former top CSIS security officials warn about using Huawei 5G switching equipment as well as smartphones

Addendum 2018 Mar 21 China Refuses Entry to Australian Critic of Communist Party

Addendun 2018 Mar 03: “I Think This is Going to Be Very Controversial” – China Uncensored, of Author Clive Hamilton of Silent Invasion, on Chinese influence in Australian society

Addendum 2018 Apr 26

Duanjie Chen, a senior fellow at the MLI who has closely studied past Chinese takeovers, warned that China has “created monsters” over recent decades in the form of SOEs with the explicit intention of expanding its reach into developed countries through acquisitions.

“It’s not aiming at profit but market share — particularly in developed countries,” she said.

A growing number of developed nations including Canada, Australia, the U.K. and others, have levelled allegations against China in recent years for influence peddling and political bribery. SOEs often lay the groundwork for that influence, experts warn.

“We could harm ourselves if we insist on opening our doors widely to a state who does not believe in the private property rights and free market system, but is using its SOEs in the disguise of commercial entities.” source

2018 May 27 Beijing censoring social-media messages in China from Western embassies
Chinese authorities routinely delete and suppress posts made to social media in China by embassies in Beijing, imposing the country’s censorship regime upon foreign governments − and raising fears that those governments, including Canada’s, are adapting by self-censoring.

2018 May 31 CSIS report warns of Chinese interference in New Zealand

“The impact of China’s political influence activities on New Zealand democracy has been profound,” the CSIS report says…

“New Zealand provides a vivid case study of China’s willingness to use economic ties to interfere with the political life of a partner country. An aggressive strategy has sought to influence political decision-making, pursue unfair advantages in trade and business, suppress criticism of China, facilitate espionage opportunities, and influence overseas Chinese communities,” the report said…

The report notes that China demands open investment in Western countries but has restricted or closed off 63 sectors of its own economy to foreign investors, such as stem-cell research, satellites, exploration and exploitation of numerous minerals and media, as well as humanities and social-sciences research institutes.

“China’s aggressive diplomacy and insistence on asymmetrical trade are particularly challenging for countries like Canada which seek mutually positive trade relationships,” the report said. “It insists on investment rights in the partner country that are not available for that partner in China.”…

The CSIS findings said it doesn’t seem to matter if Western firms are dealing with a Chinese state-owned enterprise or one held privately because the corporate executives “will have close and increasingly explicit ties to the CCP.”


2018 June 08 Australia’s foreign meddling laws aimed at China could take effect this month

2018 June 15 Exiled in the U.S., a Lawyer Warns of ‘China’s Long Arm’
Mr. Teng and his family also ran into financial difficulties in the United States after his wife was dismissed from her job as an international representative for a Chinese technology parts company — a move that he said had been forced by Chinese officials. His wife had worked for the company for 17 years.

“The Chinese government put pressure on that company,” Mr. Teng said. “The company said that because of me, they couldn’t sell their products to Chinese agencies and the military.”

2018 June 17 Don’t self-censor to please China in trading relationship, exiled Tibetan leader tells Canada

“One should enter into trade with China. You do business with China. You have to have a relationship with China. You can’t avoid it, you can’t ignore it and you should make money,” Sangay said. “But you know, what I’ve noticed is the moment there’s a trade agreement with China, all of a sudden these countries start resorting to self-censorship. First Tibet, then Tiananmen, then Taiwan and all of the environmental and labour issues and women’s rights issues in China.”…

But the Tibetan leader said he worries that Western nations are too quick to take China at its word, or worry about offending the Chinese government. He described mass political repression, the arrest of peaceful protesters and environmental ravaging on the Tibetan plateau. Sangay said emerging concerns should get more notice from Western governments, such as China’s new “social credit” system, already being sold to other countries’ governments after successful piloting in Tibet, and its policing of behaviour by facial recognition. Freedom House considers Tibet the second-least-free place in the world after Syria.

2018 June 26 China’s Huawei Leads as Corporate Sponsor of Australian Politicians’ Travel

The company, Huawei, was the biggest corporate sponsor of overseas travel for the country’s politicians from 2010 to this year…

The cost of courting 12 federal politicians “shows you the investment that Huawei is putting into getting their message across to members of Parliament,” said Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“Huawei stands out significantly ahead of anyone else simply because of the numbers of people that it’s taken to China,” he said.

Huawei provided business-class flights to its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, and paid for the politicians’ hotels, local travel, meals and other expenses. The report did not include the costs involved.

2018 June 25 How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port

Estimates by the Sri Lankan Finance Ministry paint a bleak picture: This year, the government is expected to generate $14.8 billion in revenue, but its scheduled debt repayments, to an array of lenders around the world, come to $12.3 billion.

The Debt Trap Strategy
-ensure country cannot repay loans
-propose and overbuild a port
-provide financing above market rate
-bribery, financial influence
-includes intelligence gathering and cooperation
-build port with preferred Chinese company, with all Chinese labour and materials, no open bidding process
-when debt cannot be repaid, ask for land lease vs rescheduling debt
-take over port

2018 June 27 Australia to pass foreign interference laws with an eye on China

Mirroring similar rules in the United States, Australia will require lobbyists for foreign countries to register, and makes them liable for criminal prosecution if they are deemed to be meddling in domestic affairs.

2018 June 28 Australia Approves Sweeping Security Laws Targeting Foreign Interference

The extensive legislation adds 38 new crimes to the record, including stealing trade secrets on behalf of a foreign government, and broaden the definitions of existing crimes like espionage…

They also make it illegal to engage in any covert activity on behalf of a foreign government that aims to influence the process of Australian politics — including activities typically protected in a democracy, like organizing a rally.

Punishments for foreign interference crimes range from 10 to 20 years in prison.

2018 Jul 24 Britain to tighten foreign takeover rules amid fears about China

2018 Aug 05 Worries Grow in Singapore Over China’s Calls to Help ‘Motherland’: Singapore is decidedly Chinese, but also a melting pot of different cultures. It would only be natural that China’s CCP influence would overwhelm the nation state. Surprisingly, this has not happened. Maybe Singapore Chinese know what to expect and do to counter the CCP onslaught. Other countries might learn from Singapore.

One example of how on-edge Singaporean officials have been came to light last year when the government expelled Huang Jing, an American academic born in China, for what it said was his covert effort to influence Singapore’s foreign policy on behalf of an unnamed foreign government — widely believed to be China. The expulsion came amid heightened tensions between Singapore and China over territorial issues relating to the South China Sea…

“The realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation requires the joint efforts of Chinese sons and daughters at home and abroad,” said Mr. Xi, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.

Scholars say the focus on strengthening ties with overseas Chinese signals a major shift away from Beijing’s previous, more hands-off approach to diaspora relations.

“There is a sense that the emphasis now is on how all ethnic Chinese share a similar origin and therefore should be more sympathetic to a P.R.C. perspective,” said Professor Chong, referring to the People’s Republic of China…

But Singapore finds itself continually needing to remind officials in Beijing that it is not a Chinese country. Last year, for example, not long after China unveiled a gleaming new center to promote Chinese culture here, Singapore countered by opening a sprawling $110 million, 11-story Singapore Chinese Cultural Center in the heart of the financial district.

The message was clear: Singaporean Chinese culture is not the same as Chinese culture.

Related 2017 Aug 05 Singapore Orders Expulsion of American Academic

Singapore has ordered the expulsion of a noted American academic for what it said was his covert effort to influence Singapore’s foreign policy on behalf of an unnamed foreign government…

“He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents,” the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday that announced the order. “This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore’s domestic politics.”…

Mr. Huang’s wife, Shirley Yang Xiuping, was also ordered to leave Singapore. The ministry said she had been aware that her husband was using his position to advance the interests of a foreign country.

2018 Aug 23 Australia bans China’s Huawei from project, sparks Beijing’s ire

Chinese law requires organisations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with intelligence work, which analysts say can make Huawei’s equipment a conduit for espionage.

“That’s what you get when you have the aligned strategy of a Chinese company with the Chinese government,” said John Watters, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Strategy Officer of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc.

2018 Sept 21 Fingers Point to China After Break-Ins Target New Zealand Professor Prof. Anne-Marie Brady, a China specialist at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand

A burglary targeting a New Zealand professor who has examined the Chinese Communist Party’s influence in Western countries has drawn the interest of Interpol and other police agencies…

Analysts said there was strong circumstantial evidence that agents of Beijing were responsible.

Peter Mattis, a former C.I.A. analyst and now a China Program fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, said the burglary, along with previous break-ins at her office, meant there was “only one likely culprit for this,” referring to China.

2018-Oct 10: China is ‘broadest, long-term counter-intelligence threat’ facing the US, says FBI chief

2018-Oct-12: Five Eyes intelligence alliance expands coalition to counter China’s foreign influence

International coordination has accelerated in parallel with a wave of national measures to limit Chinese investments in sensitive technology companies and counter what some governments view as a growing campaign, under President Xi Jinping, to sway foreign governments and societies in China’s favour through a mix of pressure and inducements.

2018 Oct 25 Campaign Contribution Raises Concerns About China’s Meddling in New Zealand

2018 Nov 22 Specter of Meddling by Beijing Looms Over Taiwan’s Elections

2018 Nov 26 New Zealand PM Ardern petitioned to protect China critic who had house burgled

2018 Dec 07 Inside China’s audacious global propaganda campaign

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