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How China Uses European Elites To Drive A Wedge Between The US And Europe And “Tear Down” The West

August 29th, 2021 12:23

Over the last cou­ple of years and espe­cial­ly since the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, Chi­nese state media’s rhetoric has become increas­ing­ly aggres­sive towards the West, mir­ror­ing the country’s broad­er awak­en­ing to its ris­ing pow­er. A recent edi­to­r­i­al piece in the Glob­al Times, the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s prime Eng­lish-lan­guage media out­let, argues that Chi­na needs to dri­ve a wedge between the US and its Euro­pean allies in order ‘to tear down the wall called ‘the West’ that the US has built specif­i­cal­ly against Chi­na”: Accord­ing to the Glob­al Times piece:

August 3, 2021 Through a series of efforts, it is entire­ly pos­si­ble for Chi­na to sub­stan­tial­ly weak­en the con­sen­sus between the US and the West on Chi­na. […] In order to achieve this, Chi­na should first adopt dif­fer­ent poli­cies toward the US and its allies, while at the same time treat mem­bers of the Five Eyes alliance and oth­er West­ern coun­tries dif­fer­ent­ly. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Chi­na attached more impor­tance to main­tain­ing Chi­na-US rela­tions. In the future, we will devote more of our resources to Euro­pean coun­tries and bring about a change in direc­tion of diplo­mat­ic strat­e­gy. We need to try to play down the so-called Chi­na-West fric­tions and talk more about the Chi­na-US con­flict. The flash­point of the so-called Chi­na-West con­flict lies in ide­o­log­i­cal fric­tions in areas such as human rights dis­putes. Chi­na can engage in more com­mu­ni­ca­tion with West­ern coun­tries from the per­spec­tive of cul­tur­al diver­si­ty, advo­cate the notion of har­mo­ny with­out uni­for­mi­ty, and try to reduce the num­ber of spe­cif­ic fric­tion points. […]Con­stant­ly expand­ing the scale of eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion between Chi­na and the West is the key. In the past, the US was the pri­or­i­ty when it came to coop­er­a­tion. In the future, more atten­tion should be paid to upgrad­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with West­ern coun­tries oth­er than the US. […]After years of efforts, it will be pos­si­ble for Chi­na to tear down the wall called “the West” that the US has built specif­i­cal­ly against China.

Read the rest here.

To achieve its objec­tive of dri­ving a wedge between the US and its West­ern allies, Chi­na seeks to spend more resources on Europe, engage in more com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and expand eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion while at the same time avoid talk­ing about ide­o­log­i­cal fric­tions (i.e., human rights). This is where Europe’s polit­i­cal and busi­ness elites come into play: Chi­na has increased its resources devot­ed to cre­at­ing lob­by groups, friend­ship asso­ci­a­tions, aca­d­e­m­ic ini­tia­tives, and busi­ness coun­cils in var­i­ous Euro­pean coun­tries in order to fos­ter elites sym­pa­thet­ic to Chi­na. Some of the most influ­en­tial pro-Chi­na elite groups are based in France, the UK, and Germany.

In France, the France Chi­na Foun­da­tion was found­ed in 2012 to “encour­age the devel­op­ment of rela­tion­ships between French and Chi­nese lead­ers, to stim­u­late their inter­est in the oth­er coun­try and to inspire them to set up joint projects.” The foun­da­tion claims to “rely on polit­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al sup­port” and gath­ers high-pro­file politi­cians and busi­ness­peo­ple from France and Chi­na, includ­ing sev­er­al peo­ple linked to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and defense cir­cles such as financier Allen Guo, con­sul­tant Casey Kang, and busi­ness mag­nate Jack Ma. One of the foundation’s mem­bers, for­mer French Prime Min­is­ter Jean-Pierre Raf­farin, already open­ly pro­motes China’s attempt­ed pow­er grab in Europa. Accord­ing to a recent inter­view with Raffarin:

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is a Chi­nese project, for the Chi­nese, but also for oth­ers. We have a place with­in it but cor­re­spond­ing to Chi­nese objec­tives. The ini­tia­tive is about build­ing a con­ti­nent, Eura­sia, based on a part­ner­ship between Asia and Europe. The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is the back­bone of this new con­ti­nent. The Amer­i­can con­ti­nent was the earth’s cen­tre of grav­i­ty, and now Eura­sia must take its place. A Chi­nese expres­sion often comes back to me: “He who pos­sess­es Europe pos­sess­es the world”. […] Ten years ago, we saw the US as our allies. In 20 years, I pre­dict many will say the same about China.

China’s main vehi­cle for elite cap­ture in the UK is the 48 Group Club, a busi­ness net­work “pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive Sino-British rela­tions” found­ed in the 1950s that today gath­ers the who’s who of the British pow­er elite — includ­ing for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, mem­bers of the House of Lords and senior media and busi­ness exec­u­tives — and pairs them with senior Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty oper­a­tives, includ­ing sev­er­al for­mer Chi­nese ambas­sadors, a for­mer vice pres­i­dent, and a for­mer vice-min­is­ter. The group’s web­site pub­lish­es arti­cles from Chi­nese state-led media out­lets such as Xin­hua and Chi­na Dai­ly Glob­al, and its mem­bers open­ly advo­cate for Chi­nese pol­i­cy objec­tives: When asked in 2014 if there are any dif­fer­ences between anti-ter­ror efforts in the West and Chi­na, Tony Blair respond­ed:

In this regard, yes, there are dou­ble stan­dards. […] There are no dif­fer­ences between West­ern anti-ter­ror efforts and Chi­na’s. We are all deal­ing with the same issue, and we try to deal with it in the same way.  Chi­na is try­ing to deal with the prob­lem through secu­ri­ty mea­sures, edu­ca­tion, and pro­vid­ing devel­op­ment, that’s also what we are try­ing to do.

Accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by Die Welt, the Ger­man equiv­a­lent of the France Chi­na Foun­da­tion and the 48 Group Club was found­ed in 2019 under the name Chi­na-Brücke (Chi­na-Bridge) by sev­er­al high-lev­el politi­cians and man­agers, includ­ing the vice pres­i­dent of the Ger­man par­lia­ment and sev­er­al man­agers from Chi­nese companies:

June 15, 2021 Six months lat­er, Friedrich [Hans Peter, vice pres­i­dent of the Ger­man Bun­destag, ed.] met ten men and women in an office build­ing on Kur­fürs­ten­damm in Berlin. They found­ed the “Chi­na Bridge”, alleged­ly a coun­ter­part to the Atl­tan­tik Bridge — the asso­ci­a­tion in which rep­re­sen­ta­tives from pol­i­tics, busi­ness and sci­ence have want­ed to strength­en the links between Ger­many and the USA for almost 70 years.  It was only after pub­lic pres­sure from human rights orga­ni­za­tions and after many months that the “Chi­na-Brücke” pub­lished the names of its board mem­bers, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Chi­nese com­pa­nies such as Aliba­ba or Huawei and a Com­mu­nist par­ty-friend­ly pub­li­cist who is also con­sid­ered to be a close con­fi­dante of the for­mer Chi­nese ambas­sador Shi. [Trans­lat­ed with Google Translate]

Read the rest here.

In Feb­ru­ary 2021, Chi­nese state media report­ed about a video con­fer­ence between Chi­na-Brücke and Chi­na’s Nation­al Peo­ple’s Con­gress (NPC) where a Chi­nese Polit­buro mem­ber promised to sup­port the group “in strength­en­ing mutu­al under­stand­ing and enhanc­ing con­sen­sus with the Chi­nese side and make joint efforts to build a broad­er and more sol­id bridge of win-win coop­er­a­tion between the two coun­tries.” In May, Chi­na-Brücke chair­man Friedrich announced that the group would not “inter­fere in indi­vid­ual polit­i­cal issues of the day” but rather seek to estab­lish itself as a “long-term bridge between the two coun­tries” – arguably to avoid touch­ing any sen­si­tive issues that might harm China’s rep­u­ta­tion in the West.