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US intelligence warns China may try to influence state leaders

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China may try to use state leaders to influence national policy, the US’ National Counterintelligence and Security Centre warns.

PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON – The People’s Republic of China (PRC) exploits the nature of the United States’ federal system to influence local and state leaders, contends a briefing released on Wednesday (July 6) by the US’ National Counterintelligence and Security Centre (NCSC).

The NCSC is under the director of national intelligence (DNI), currently national security and intelligence veteran Avril Haines – who is also the first woman to lead the United States’ intelligence community.

The notice – a warning essentially, against a backdrop of tension between the two big powers – posted on the NCSC website, says “The PRC understands US state and local leaders enjoy a degree of independence from Washington and may seek to use them as proxies to advocate for national US policies Beijing desires.”

Such moves could include improved US economic cooperation with China, or reduced US criticism of China.

The PRC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continue to seek to influence Washington directly, the briefing says, but have stepped up efforts to cultivate America’s state and local leaders as “an effective way to pursue agendas that might be more challenging at the national level.”

The brief warns that, “By their nature, these efforts can have a corrosive effect on targeted societies. They can also threaten the integrity of the US policy-making process and interfere in how US civil, economic, and political life functions.”

“PRC influence operations can be deceptive and coercive, with seemingly benign business opportunities or people-to-people exchanges sometimes masking PRC political agendas” it warns.

“Financial incentives may be used to hook US state and local leaders, given their focus on local economic issues. In some cases, the PRC or its proxies may press state and local leaders to take actions that align with their local needs, but also advance PRC agendas, sometimes over national US interests.”

“Among the PRC government agencies involved in foreign influence operations are China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Education” the NCSC contends.

Influence operations work through exploiting partnerships and creating dependencies, it says.

The report concludes with advice to state leaders, agencies and corporations, saying “geopolitical reality has placed state and local officials in the United States and other nations on the front lines of national security.”

Mitigation measures suggested include vigilance when engaging with foreign entities and understanding there is no such thing as a “free lunch”.

“While partnerships or engagements with China or other foreign nations can bring economic, academic, and cultural benefits to US state and local communities, there may be strings attached” it warns.

“Know your partners and who you are doing business with” it advises.

But the brief also makes the point that “It is important that US state and local leaders not cast blanket suspicion on all outreach from China.”

The “threat of exploitation emanates from the PRC government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), not the people of China generally and not Chinese Americans, who themselves are often victimised by PRC aggression” it says.

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