The sudden closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, is the latest move in a chess match between the U.S. government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Praising the shutdown as “long overdue,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called the consulate the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States.”
As the United States moves to confront Chinese operations in our country, authorities are finding how kudzu-like Chinese peddling of influence has grown.
Five years ago, Reuters exposed a hidden radio network that was broadcasting propaganda in the United States. California-based G&E Studio is owned by a Beijing-based company that is a subsidiary of the Chinese state media company called China Radio International. The Chinese “borrowed boat” strategy employs a variety of front companies to lease our domestic radio bands, bypassing a federal ban on foreign governments owning the stations.
One rural Virginia station was leased and then transformed from a backroads broadcaster to a maximum-wattage mouthpiece that hits an area far beyond D.C. The communist-controlled broadcasts can be heard in other major markets, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas.
R&C Media Group appears to be an even bigger disseminator of Chinese propaganda. The Los Angeles-based company is the digital television and Internet distributor of the Chinese government’s state-owned TV station. R&C is also the North America chief representative of China Film Group Corp., a Chinese government-owned entity that approves or bans U.S.-produced movies from being distributed in China. That’s a nice connection to have — especially when the businessman who runs G&E Studio also chairs the Chinese American Film Festival that attracts Hollywood bigwigs.
In 2019, Chinese entities tripled their spending from 2016 to nearly $30 million in foreign agent filings. The biggest spender was Chinese Central TV, followed by China Daily, another media mouthpiece for the CCP.
The money has bought some heavy-hitters to provide pig lipstick. Last year, China Telecom hired global ad firm Ogilvy for almost $300,000. Ogilvy pledged to activate “third-party influencers” to “reinforce a positive narrative” about China Telecom through social media postings and communications with policymakers. The CCP-controlled government hired global law and lobbying firm Squire, Patton, Boggs, while Mercury Public Affairs and Burson-Marstellar also work for Chinese interests.
Chinese interests have purchased 2,400 American companies. These are not chains of dry cleaners. The list includes AMC Theaters, with 8,000 screens, and Legendary Entertainment, a major film production company. It’s another subtle control over what America sees and hears about the CCP. These purchases are just another part of China’s “soft power” strategy. Consequently, you won’t see a film produced with commercial value that has a hint of negative China imagery.
We are reliant on China for 97% of our antibiotics supply. The Chinese have long understood choke holds. Said one Chinese economist: “China is the world’s largest exporter of vitamins and antibiotic raw materials. Once the export is reduced, the medical systems of some developed countries will not work.”
The Chinese government is seeking global dominance through its “Made in China 2025” program where they dominate 10 key technologies from Aerospace to Ocean Engineering. And too often, we’re giving them a helping hand. The Chinese have purchased key tech companies to gain our research on the cheap. U.S. companies have faced forced technology transfers in order to access the Chinese marketplace, as well as illegal espionage, in the form of hacking, intellectual property theft and similar attacks as we discovered even before the reveal in Houston.
The CCP is playing a deliberate long game with predictable outcomes. Not unrelated, the 9/11 commission had one major finding. It was the “Failure to Imagine” vulnerability to a horrific attack. We shouldn’t have to learn that lesson twice.
• Rick Berman is president of Berman and Company in Washington, D.C., and manages the website www.Chinaownsus.com