Swiss media is reporting on China’s overt and covert influence operations in Germany, which the article says plays a central role in Peking’s strategy to establish a Sino-centric worldview. According to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung article:
If need be, Beijing’s long arm extends as far as the Gethsemane Church in Prenzlauer Berg. When a memorial service was held there in the summer of 2018 to mark the first anniversary of the death of the writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, a handful of uninvited Chinese guests were also present. The gentlemen have positioned themselves in a clearly visible position on the gallery of the Berlin church, which was an important meeting place during the peaceful revolution of 1989. Friends of Lius report that they are filming those present with a listless expression. The People’s Republic does not miss the opportunity to aggressively demonstrate that “enemies of the system” are also closely monitored 7,500 kilometers from Beijing. However, China rarely appears as openly as it was then abroad. Beijing usually tries to represent its interests with the utmost discretion. The operation is concealed, sometimes conspiratorial and, above all, comprehensive. The strategic goal is to gradually establish a sinocentric worldview in Europe propagated by the Chinese Communist Party, Australian China specialist Clive Hamilton and German sinologist Mareike Ohlberg write in their book “Die Lautlose Eroberung”. This strategy is implemented by the United Front, an organization based in Beijing with branches around the world.
(Translated with Google Translate with minor edits)
Read the rest here (paywall).
The article continues to identify a network of at least 230 business associations, friendship societies, or cultural groups in Germany with connections to the United Front Work Department, which are centrally controlled by the Communist Party and the Ministry for State Security (MSS). The Düsseldorf-based „Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher China-Gesellschaften“ (Working Group of German China-Societies) and the legal residency of the Chinese intelligence services in the Chinese embassy in Berlin are acting as operational headquarters for the United Front in Germany, according to the article.
In November 2020, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) recommended a Newsweek report on the United Front Work Department, 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 a large 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, pressure individuals living in free and open societies to self-censor and avoid discussing issues unfavorable to the CCP and harass or undermine groups critical of Beijing’s policies.
Past GIOR reporting on China’s influence operations in Europe has included:
- In January 2021, the GIOR reported that registered Chinese Communist Party members are working in key UK positions.
- In December 2020, the GIOR recommended a study on Chinese influence efforts directed against four Central European countries.
- In December 2020, the GIOR reported on a Czech MEP said to be acting as an agent of Chinese influence.
- In November 2020, the GIOR reported on a high-ranking German official said to have suppressed a 2018 report on Chinese influence in the country.