EIJING (Reuters) – Chinese media on Friday hit back at a U.S. academic report which urged the United States to engage in “tit-for-tat” retaliation to counter what it said was China’s widening campaign for influence which threatened to undermine democratic values.
The 213-page report, published by the U.S. think tank Hoover Institution on Thursday, said China’s ruling Communist Party had in recent years “significantly accelerated” both the investment and intensity of its global influence-seeking efforts.
The report was penned by a group of more than 30 prominent Western experts, such as Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, many whom had long advocated for closer engagement with China.
The sharper tone comes as President Xi Jinping has increased repression at home and adopted what the report describes as an “increasingly forward and aggressive posture on the global stage”.
China’s state-run Global Times said the report’s threat assessment was unfounded.
“We believe the Chinese infiltration into the United States the report describes does not match up with China’s objective aspirations,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
The report, however, found that there was now a “surprising” level of bi-partisan scepticism about China’s intentions and a willingness to push back against its “predatory” policies.
“China is exploiting America’s openness in order to advance its aims on a competitive playing field,” it said. “Once largely a form of economic competition, China’s recent turn to military and political rivalry with the United States has changed the whole equation of the bilateral relationship.”
In order to counter China’s activities, the report makes a series of suggestions for United States lawmakers, institutions and businesses that it said could help ensure “transparency, integrity and reciprocity”.
It recommends denying U.S. visas to Chinese journalists and having scholars affiliated with the Chinese government-run “Thousand Talents Programme” registered as a foreign agent.
The report also lauded recent legislation that strengthened the review process by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency panel that assesses the national security implications of investment.
Legislation passed in June by U.S. President Donald Trump was a “substantial improvement” that closed loopholes that China had been exploiting, it said.
The authors also included a note of caution that China’s efforts should not be exaggerated.
“China has not sought to interfere in a national election in the United States or to sow confusion or inflame polarisation in our democratic discourse the way Russia has done,” it said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was their custom not to give detailed comment on think tank reports, but he said China welcomed U.S. companies, media, students and think tanks to come to the country.
“We hope that the United States, as the world’s most powerful country, can open both arms and welcome companies, the media, think tanks and students from all countries, including China, to go to the United States,” he told reporters.
(Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Philip Wen; Editing by Michael Perry and Darren Schuettler)