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Politics

White House pushes to combat covert Chinese influence

David Ignatius on

-- Think tanks are eager to study China, but often the money to support research comes from business executives with close relations with Beijing. That can lead to subtle pro-China bias. In conversations with think-tank leaders, the senior official said, he has stressed "the need for think tanks to cast a brighter light in this area. We think sunlight is the best disinfectant."

-- Hollywood studios face an especially delicate problem, because the Chinese box office is so important to their bottom line. Ticket sales in China rose from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $8.6 billion last year, second only to America. Inevitably, U.S. studios fear offending Chinese official sensibilities.

-- News organizations can face pressure, too. China can restrict visas for journalists or publications it sees as too aggressive. After Bloomberg News published revelations in 2012 about the family wealth of Chinese political leaders, Beijing temporarily blocked sales of Bloomberg's financial data terminals in China, a potentially crippling move.

China's glittering modern facade often convinces outsiders that it's a country just like the West. Not so, says Peter Mattis, a former CIA analyst who now studies Chinese influence activities for the Jamestown Foundation. When American thought leaders interact with Chinese representatives, it's not a free-flowing "conduit," he says, but a controlled circuit.

America has never faced a rival quite like China, which presents such a compelling, well-financed challenge to democratic values. America certainly doesn't want a new "Red Scare," but maybe a wake-up call.

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David Ignatius can be reached via Twitter: @IgnatiusPost.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


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