The Chinese Communist Party extends daily its control of Western politicians, media, business, and academics. Those who deny it consciously or unconsciously work for the CCP propaganda.
by Massimo Introvigne
It does not happen every day. Threats of legal action simultaneously in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States blocked in June the release of Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World, by Australian academic Clive Hamilton, of Charles Sturt University, and German researcher Mareike Ohlberg, currently at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. The legal challenges came from pro-Chinese British businessman Stephen Perry and his organization 48 Group Club, but the shadow of the CCP clearly appeared behind its Western fellow travelers.
Hamilton became known to the general public in 2018 with his book Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia. After the CCP and his friends scared publisher Allen & Unwin into withdrawing it at the last minute, the book was published by Hardie Grant (Richmond, Victoria) and became a bestseller. Pro-Chinese Australian academics dismissed Silent Invasion as promoting an agenda of confrontation with China, while dialogue and economic cooperation were allegedly creating “increasing freedom within China.”
This was already an untenable position in 2018, and becomes absurd in 2020, after the new Hong Kong National Security Law, the COVID-19 cover-up, and new revelations about the horrific persecution of religious minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the repression of religion throughout China. Yet, the same academics sing the same song, as Hidden Hand finally becomes available to English-speaking readers (a German edition had been published in May).
What this is all about has been defined by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his July 23 speech at The Richard Nixon Presidential Library, a speech that will be remembered for its historical significance. For the first time, Pompeo repudiated the doctrine, created by Nixon, that international recognition and business relationships will eventually compel China to move towards democracy and the respect of human rights. Half a century after Nixon, it is now clear that this is not happening, and will not happen. And, Pompeo, said, if we do not manage to change Communist China, then Communist China will change us.
Hamilton and Ohlberg’s book is a vast footnote to this latest statement. It shows that the CCP is already changing us, and that this happens every day. The book is encyclopedic in scope, and cannot be easily summarized. It reminds us that, under Xi Jinping, the CCP is a party claiming the heritage of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, engaged in a global struggle to make China the world’s dominant power and to persuade all countries that Communism is more effective than democracy in solving their problems. Like Chairman Mao, Xi divides the population of the world in three segments: the “red” friends, the “black” enemies who should be destroyed by using all possible legal and illegal means, and the “gray” in the middle, those who can be bought or persuaded to work with the “reds.”
The book is a long catalogue of how there are in the West a few “reds” ideologically committed to Xi’s “Socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and many “grays” who are bought, blackmailed, or otherwise “persuaded.” They are in all countries, and come from all political persuasions. We find important economic connections with China and CCP-owned businesses in the family of President Trump—and in the family of Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden as well. The Republicans also have Neil Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, who speaks in pro-Chinese conferences organized by groups connected with the United Front, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has voted against resolutions censoring China. McConnell is the husband of Chinese-American current Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, whose father has decade-old connections with influential members of the CCP.
Australia has former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who claimed that human rights are part of “Western values” that do not apply to China, and stated that the Chinese government is “simply the best government in the world in the last thirty years. Full stop.” Another former Prime Minister, France’s Jean-Pierre Raffarin, is described in the book as a sort of traveling salesman for Chinese interests, and one of the few Westerners to have received from the hands of President Xi Jinping the Friendship Medal, “the ultimate symbol of Party gratitude.” In 2018, Raffarin was appointed by President Macron as his special representative for China.
A similar role, the book claims, is played in the UK by the 48 Group Club, which includes leading businesspersons and politicians; at the European Parliament, by Czech MEP Jan Zahradil: in Italy, by former Undersecretary of State Michele Geraci, who spent many years in China and is a regular contributor to the CCP media.
The CCP’s long arms do not extend to national politicians only. China has a systematic program of cooperation with local authorities, who often know next to nothing about the CCP’s real agenda, yet host propaganda celebrations in their cities and manage to block anti-Chinese protests or events organized by Tibetan refugees or Falun Gong. Hamilton and Ohlberg discuss the case of Muscatine, Iowa, a small city that became the center of pro-Chinese events of national importance in the United States. Restricting the freedom of Falun Gong to organize events in the West, the book claims, is one of the CCP’s obsessions, and the authors detail how Chinese embassies and consulates deploy a feverish activity to persuade theaters (including Madrid’s Royal Theater) that dance and music shows by the Falun Gong company Shen Yun should be cancelled, if no other reason is found for “technical reasons,” as it happened in Spain.
The CCP also intimidates or manipulates Chinese overseas, journalists, businesspersons, and academics. Large companies become advocates for the CCP lured by the perspective of billionaire contracts with China. Universities rely heavily on tuition fees paid by Chinese students for their budgets, but the ways China infiltrates and controls the Western academia are nearly infinite. Academic presses are intimidated to publish pro-Chinese books and reject those critical of the CCP (although some resist). Some universities even cooperated (not for free) with the China Society for Human Rights Studies, a CCP propaganda body whose aim is to persuade the world that human rights as we know them are “Western” rather than universal, and cannot be applied to China.
Financial firms and think tanks are also infiltrated. The name of Goldman Sachs is often quoted in the book, and it is certainly suggestive that Song Bing, a former Goldman Sachs executive, married Daniel Bell, one of the leading voices at the pro-China Berggruen Institute, a Los Angeles think tank founded by a German American billionaire, which, according to the authors, cooperates with the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department.
Two elements, the authors claim, are making the situation worse: the growing presence of China in international institutions, and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It has not escaped the attention of Hamilton and Ohlberg that the BRI Memorandum executed by Italy provides for the cooperation between the Italian state television and wire agency and their Chinese homologues, whose aim is obviously to spread CCP propaganda in Italy. There are similar provisions in other BRI agreements.
The book also mentions the strange story of Meng Hongwei, whom China managed to install as president of Interpol in 2016, only to make him “disappear” in 2018, and sentence him to 13 and a half years in jail for alleged corruption in 2019. According to Hamilton and Ohlberg, it is possible that Meng was in fact punished for not having been able to use Interpol to arrest Dolkun Isa, the president of the World Uyghur Congress, although he managed to have him arrested by the Italian police in 2017. But Isa was promptly released after several Italian politicians raised their voice in protest.
Is China changing the world? The answer offered by the book is yes. We should not confuse China with Russia, the authors say. Russia also tries to infiltrate the West with its propaganda, but its economy certainly does not allow the government to invest in these projects as much as China does. Pro-Chinese academics may disagree with this, but Secretary Pompeo is right. The only way of preventing China from changing the West is to change China, not only in the West’s interest but in the main interest of the Chinese people, who should be freed from the tyranny of the CCP.