VIDEO: Key Moments From CECC Hearing “The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism With Chinese Characteristics”

(Washington, D.C.)— U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the chair and cochair respectively of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), held a hearing on December 13, 2017 to look at the scope of the Chinese government’s foreign influence operations.

Witnesses included Shanthi Kalathil, the Director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy; Glenn Tiffert, a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; and Sophie Richardson, the China Director for Human Rights Watch.

Partial transcripts and links to videos of some of the hearing’s key moments are below.  Witness testimonies and the opening statements of Senator Rubio and Congressman Smith can be found on the CECC’s website.  The archived hearing webcast can be viewed at the CECC’s YouTube page.

VIDEO: Senator Rubio Says Chinese Government Wants to Roll Back Human Freedoms

What see here, on behalf of the government and the Communist Party, is an effort to roll back the advances towards human freedom that have been made over the last hundred years, particularly since the end of the second world war.  That’s also important to communicate because sometimes when we talk about China it means, in the minds of some, that we are talking about the Chinese [people]—and we are not.  We are fully cognizant that in a nation that large, with that many people, there are hundreds of millions of people who aspire to a different way forward, but simply do not have the way to advocate for it, or are punished for advocating for it—sometimes even with their lives—and so that's always important to leave clear on the record.

VIDEO: Glenn Tiffert Responds to Representative Smith’s Question About China’s World Internet Conference & Confucius Institutes

The United States is accustomed to dealing with or engaging with the world from a position of the strength, not just comprehensive economic and military strength, but also a deep confidence of the enduring appeal of our values around the world.  And that, particularly since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has produced a certain amount of complacency—we thought game over—I don't think China ended the game and I believe that we are now playing different games and the United States needs to get its game back on.  Our confidence about our strengths, our power—our soft power not just our hard power—has produced the language of “responsible stake holding,” “convergence”—they will become more like us if we open our institutions to them and show them how fabulous we are.  China is the first country this century to challenge that from a position of comprehensive strength.  They are large, they are increasingly rich, and increasingly militarily powerful, so we need to dig deep.  Our way of dealing with a lot of these issues is too harden our own institutions, some of which are developing cracks—academia, the media, other institutions. China is exploiting those cracks and it is doing it in ways that frankly are brilliant.  Our best response to these exploitations is to strengthen ourselves, to raise consciousness, to get our game back on and to reinvest in ourselves… It is a question of values—Senator King raised this earlier.  To the extent that we regard our engagements with them as purely transactional and disengage values from it—then Tim Cook (Apple CEO) can talk optimistically about a day when China may suddenly open up without having to confront the problem of the China of today.

VIDEO: Senator King Describes China Influence Operations as ‘Geopolitical Jujitsu’

What is going on here is what I call “geopolitical jujitsu” where you are using your opponent's strengths as their weaknesses. Our strength is our openness, our free society, our first amendment, and protected expression and that is being used by our adversaries to undermine our system.  It is kind of an ironic turn using our own values against us and that is concerning to me because any country in the world could look at what the Russians did here in 2016 and say, “Wow that worked, it was pretty cheap, and here is another avenue for influence.”

VIDEO: Shanthi Kalathil on the Exporting of China’s Censorship

This combination of aspects results in a system that curtails freedom, suppresses dissent, and manages public opinion reliant not on any individual elements put on a principle of redundancy built into every layer. Why is this domestic approach relevant to our topic today?  It is becoming evident that the CCP under Xi Jinping is intent on encompassing the rest of the world within its “walled garden.” This isn't to say that China seeks to control every facet of communication or that it wants to impose its exact model of authoritarian government everywhere, but it is increasingly true that Beijing’s technology ambitions, combined with its attempts to determine, on a global scale, the parameters of acceptable speech and opinion with respect to China, pose clear threats to freedom of expression and democratic discourse outside its borders.  So how does the Chinese government apply to gardening techniques internationally?  While it cannot control the infrastructure and technology of the global Internet, Chinese companies are actively building out key telecommunications and communications infrastructure in developing countries, raising questions about security and dissemination of censorship capabilities.  And, if China succeeds in dominating the emerging global market for data-enabled objects, also known as “the Internet of Things” its approach to embedded surveillance may become the norm in places with weak individual privacy protections.

VIDEO: Sophie Richardson on China’s Efforts to Undermine UN Human Rights Mechanisms

Even as it engages with UN institutions, China has worked consistently, and often aggressively, to silence criticism of its human rights record before UN bodies and has taken actions aimed at weakening some of the central mechanisms available there which in turn poses a longer term challenge to the integrity of the UN human rights system as a whole.  In a September 2017 report, we detailed how Chinese officials have harassed activists, primarily those from China, by photographing and filming them on UN premises, in violation of UN rules, and by restricting their travel to Geneva.  Members of this Commission need no reminder about the case of Cao Shunli.  China has also used its membership on the UN’s Economic and Social Council’s NGO committee to block NGOs critical of China from being granted UN accreditation and it has sought to blacklist accredited activists.  Behind the scenes, Chinese diplomats, in violation of UN rules, contacted UN staff and experts on treaty bodies and special procedures including behavior that has amounted to harassment and intimidation. China has also repeatedly sought to block or weaken UN resolutions on civil society, human rights defenders, and peaceful protests including when they do not directly concern policy and practice in China.  It has pushed back against efforts to strengthen some of the key mechanisms, notably country-specific resolutions on grave situations like North Korea and Syria and efforts to strengthen treaty body reviews.  During UN peacekeeping budget consultations earlier this year, China sought to slash funding for the UN human rights officers who play a vital role in monitoring alleged human rights abuses in some of the world’s most dangerous places...

VIDEO: Glenn Tiffert Responds to Senator Rubio’s Question About the Scope of Chinese Influence Operations

What distinguishes the Chinese efforts to wield influence in the United States is that they are spending a great deal more money to do that—they have commercial advantages and so they are able, through, for example, Confucius institutes, to promote a particular view of China and to close out discussion of certain topics on campus.  They are able to donate money to a particular cause—much of this is legal activity but they can simply wield influence because they can write checks.  That is something that we did not face as a country during the Cold War with the Soviet Union as their pockets were not as deep.  China is not necessarily appealing to hearts and minds, it is appealing to wallets.