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China’s ‘Magic Weapons’: Influence Operations Subverting Foreign Governments


Report says Beijing sharply increases overseas efforts to sway governments under Xi Jinping.

Bill Gertz reports: China under supreme leader Xi Jinping is stepping up coordinated intelligence operations aimed at influencing foreign governments into backing Beijing’s anti-democratic goals, according to a new study.

Chinese influence operations involve multiple government and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) intelligence organizations that seek to buy, guide, or coerce foreign governments into advancing its agenda, says the study written by New Zealand professor Anne-Marie Brady, a fellow at the Wilson Center.

“Even more than his predecessors, Xi Jinping has led a massive expansion of efforts to shape foreign public opinion in order to influence the decision-making of foreign governments and societies,” the report says.

“China’s foreign influence activities have the potential to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the political system of targeted states,” the report warns.

Using New Zealand as a case study, the report reveals that Xi recently urged overseas Chinese nationals and ethnic Chinese residents to infiltrate foreign governments.

In New Zealand, several ethnic Chinese politicians have been elected to the parliament of the South Pacific nation, which is a key intelligence ally of the United States.

For example, New Zealand parliamentarian Jian Yang acknowledged recently that he concealed his past relationship with the People’s Liberation Army intelligence unit and membership in the Chinese Communist Party.

“New Zealand, like many other states in the world, is becoming saturated with the PRC’s political influence activities, and due to its pattern of engagement with China and its natural assets, it may even be experiencing more political influence activities than most,” the report says.

Chinese foreign influence operations in New Zealand raise security concerns here about China gaining accessing U.S. secrets. The government there is part of the British-American intelligence alliance known as Five Eyes—that involves the sharing of secrets among the spy services of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


“New Zealand is valuable to China, as well to other states such as Russia, as a soft underbelly to access Five Eyes intelligence,” the report said.

“New Zealand is also a potential strategic site for the PLA navy’s Southern Hemisphere future naval facilities and a future Beidou-2 [navigation satellite system] ground station—there are already several of these in Antarctica.”

Over the past several decades, China has focused on sowing divisions between the government in Wellington and the U.S., its ally. New Zealand has adopted increasingly anti-American policies, beginning in the 1980s when the nation refused to permit nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed warships from making port calls as part of an anti-nuclear policy.

China has targeted New Zealand’s 200,000 ethnic Chinese, part of the country’s population of 4.5 million people.

The report on Beijing influence operations was published as Democrats and most news outlets in the United States remain focused on Russian influence operations, specifically activities during the 2016 presidential election.

By contrast, Chinese influence operations in the United States have received little or no scrutiny from Congress or most news media.

The Chinese activities are based on what Beijing calls “united front” work—strategic influence operations first used in the 1940s by communists who eventually seized power in China.


Xi in September 2014 highlighted the importance of united front work in supporting influence activities around the world, calling them the Party’s “magic weapons” in pursuit of making China the dominant world power.

Concerned over the growing sub rosa intelligence operations in nearby Australia, the government there had drafted new laws designed to curb Chinese political and economic influence activities, including a ban on all foreign political donations.

In the United States, China has been engaged in widespread influence operations primarily through the hiring of former government officials to lobby on its behalf. Other methods involve coercing American companies operating in China into influencing the U.S. government in support of China’s policies.

During the 1990s, Chinese agents were caught by the FBI funding the reelection campaign of President Bill Clinton … (read more)


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