Reuters reported last month that US intelligence has warned state and local officials that China aims to manipulate them into pressing the federal government to pursue more Beijing-friendly policies. According to a Reuters report:
July 6, 2022 China “understands that U.S. state and local leaders enjoy a degree of independence from Washington and may seek to use them as proxies to advocate for national U.S. policies Beijing desires,” the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said in a bulletin sent to state and local officials. […] The new counterintelligence bulletin said that Beijing is using a variety of means to manipulate state and local officials into pressing Washington for policies that are more friendly to China. “PRC (Peoples Republic of China) influence operations can be deceptive and coercive, with seemingly benign business opportunities or people-to-people exchanges sometimes masking PRC political agendas,” it said.
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The Reuters report says the intelligence bulletin identified the following organizations as “front groups” for Chinese influence:
- The Beijing-based Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC)
- The Washington, DC-based National Association for China’s Peaceful Reunification (NACPU)
In October 2020, the US government designated the NACPU as a foreign mission of China, saying the United Front Work Department controls the organization. The same statement also said the US government discontinued a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government on establishing a forum because the CPAFFC “sought to directly and malignly influence state and local leaders to promote the PRC’s global agenda.”
The United Front Work Department is a little-known Beijing-based agency with branches around the world that seeks to implement the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) plans to set up and connect an extensive network of associations, business groups, friendship societies, or cultural groups supportive of the CCP and to ensure that its overseas citizens, and others of ethnic Chinese descent, stay loyal. According to a US government report, United Front work promotes Beijing’s preferred global narrative, pressures individuals living in free and open societies to self-censor and avoid discussing issues unfavorable to the CCP, and harasses or undermines groups critical of Beijing’s policies.