The traditional means by which war has been waged – tanks, aircrafts, missiles, drones, etc. – is far from the only way to inflict damage on an adversary. Other means can be far more insidious, and far more damaging in the long term, than the many forms of warfare unleashed on battlefields. China, with its massive influx of students to the American university system bringing their expertise back to their home country and the nation’s systematic attempts to purchase increasingly large swaths of American assets, has engaged in more insidious means of American takeover than overt, military warfare.
And, by many metric, it appears as if China’s trajectory is outpacing the United States. Even worse, it’s unclear whether American leadership has been willing or able enough to stanch the flow of Chinese influence, both into the country’s borders and back out.
One of the most obvious epicenters of Chinese influence into America is the nation’s renowned university system, where according to Foreign Policy, one in three international students hail from China. This highly-achieving immigrant group has well-earned their spots in university, that’s no problem. The issue for many concerned about the agenda of the Chinese government with respect to America comes in the fact that the Communist Chinese government has seemingly exerted increasing levels of control over Chinese Student Groups overtly aimed at helping native Chinese acclimate to American culture.
Several leaders and members involved with Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, or CSSAs, across America’s vast array of universities admit to the fact that not only are these organizations heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, they are often pressured to spread the government’s propaganda and attend events in support of Chinese leadership visiting the States. These sorts of pro-Chinese meetings and events have become increasingly prevalent since approximately 2016, according to several sources.
‘numerous CSSA members, including two current chapter presidents, say that they are uncomfortable with what they felt was growing ideological pressure from the embassy and consulates. That pressure has become more apparent since 2016, when the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a directive ordering schools to instill greater patriotism and love for the party in students of every age — including Chinese students studying abroad.’ (Foreign Policy)
This pressure includes consular officials, who communicate on the popular chat app WeChat with CSSA presidents, pressuring those group leaders to share articles professing praise for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party as well as holding study sessions surrounding Chinese state doctrines.
Patriotism is one thing, but it appears that the enhanced efforts to strongly encourage Chinese students to adhere to state party guidelines is a less-than-veiled way of maintaining control, and also ensuring that those students bring their knowledge gained at American universities back home.
The loss of high-achieving Chinese university students is part of the concern of American leaders who feel China has perfected a system of getting the best out of America’s educational and professional sectors, only to use that information and human capital against the United States.
Several prestigious United States universities – from Harvard to Carnegie Mellon and beyond – have opened satellite campuses in China. Those organizations, despite the promises of the Chinese government, fall under the strict speech regulation that the Chinese state is notorious for. Consider the case of Xia Yeliang, an economics professor operating out of Peking University, who was left out to dry by the base campus, Wellesley College, when she was fired for speaking out in a way that the Chinese government frowned upon. Wellesley continued its satellite program with Peking, illustrating once again how little some of America’s most well-regarded universities are willing to do, even when they are able, to stomp out increasing influence from the Chinese state, which has illustrated hostile practices toward American ideals for too long.
Those practices are far from limited to universities. America’s private sector has been witnessed what could amount to $400 billion in corporate losses due to orchestrated business intelligence gathering schemes. While these activities also occur among domestic competitors, China’s notoriously lax approach to intellectual property and their status as an economic rival of America’s means that they are well-known to engage in the practice.
‘The phrase “traditional intelligence gathering” has its roots corporate espionage. Popular targets include technology related industries such as software, hardware, aerospace, biotechnology, telecommunications and energy, among others. It is no surprise that Silicon Valley is the world’s most frequently targeted area for industrial espionage as any advantage gained in a rapidly evolving industry is multiplied in value. It is clear, however, that no specific industry or sector is immune to these issues.’ (Reuters)
Making the matter of increasing Chinese influence in America even more concerning is the rapid pace with which China’s economy has grown in recent years. Though many see current growth rates of China’s economy as untenable, it’s not unfathomable that their GDP growth could surpass the United States by as soon as 2028, according to Bloomberg. And, China has made several moves in attempts to gain larger stakes within the domestic United States economy that have many American officials concerned.
In 2012, China’s ICBC Bank became the first state-owned Chinese financial institution to operate retail banks in the United States with its purchase of a stake in Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia. With that purchase, two more Chinese banks were certified as bank holding companies. This is a precedent that many would never have liked to see established, especially considering China’s outsize role on the global stage.
The Chinese government has also made a concerted effort to target U.S. manufacturers for acquisition. The Chinese Dalian Wanda Group shelled out $2.5 billion to purchase the AMC chain of movie theaters, which was set to become the largest movie theater operation on earth. A Chinese company also paid $1.3 billion for a Texas-based oil field, giving the nation a footprint in the States’ energy sector, however modest it may be. If it weren’t for an overruling by the SEC, a Chinese investment group would have attained ownership of the 130-plus year-old Chicago Stock Exchange.
In a country where the state can take over virtually any business on a whim, any Chinese company’s holding of American companies should induce some level of concern. It’s not the acquisitions or influence campaigns in universities themselves that is of most significance, but China’s dedication to carrying out such purchases and pro-government propaganda campaigns which is perhaps of greatest consequence.
It speaks to the Communist nation’s determination to continue its pursuit of the status as world leader, both in terms of financial might and overall influence. While Chinese people still, on average, only claim one-third the purchasing power of comparable Americans, it’s clear that the top of the Chinese wealth pyramid, including the government, is determined to continue increasing its influence in America. That will be the case until somebody steps up and stops the attempted takeover, whether it’s the president, Congress, or businesses choosing to sell their assets more selectively.