US: China tapping power brokers for foreign influence

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — China’s foreign influence activities are predominately focused on establishing and maintaining “power brokers” within a foreign government to promote policies that will facilitate China’s rise, despite its repeated assurance and stated position of not interfering in foreign nations’ internal affairs, according to a new United States Department of Defense (DoD) annual report to Congress.

In its 2019 Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, the US defense department said China also conducts influence operations targeting media, culture, business, academia and the policy communities in the US and other countries.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to condition foreign and multilateral political establishments and public opinion to accept China’s narrative surrounding its priorities like One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative and South China Sea territorial and maritime claims, the report said.

The report said a cornerstone of China’s strategy also includes appealing to overseas Chinese or ethnic Chinese citizens of other countries to advance CCP objectives through soft power or, sometimes, coercion and blackmail. China harnesses academia and educational institutions, think tanks and state-run media to advance China’s security interests. 

‘Can’t be trusted’

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said based on his first hand experience, China’s word is “unreliable” and Beijing is “not to be trusted.”

“When China makes a declaration, you can almost be sure that it is not consistent with what is happening on the ground,” Del Rosario said.

He said while the Philippines elevated the country’s relations with China to a “comprehensive strategic cooperation” and “full accommodations” being granted to Beijing, unlawful actions against Filipinos continue.

Del Rosario, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and a group of Filipino fishermen had earlier filed a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court for “atrocious” actions in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory constituting crimes against humanity.

Del Rosario rejected the “incredible” claims that the Philippines could provoke Beijing to war if Manila stands up to Chinese bullying.

“While we are cognizant of the imperative not to trigger an armed conflict, we believe that adherence to the rule of law is a profoundly pacifist way that we all should follow,” Del Rosario said in a statement. 

“Specifically, to accept that war is the only alternative to setting aside the arbitral decision is remarkably incredible and cannot be taken seriously in this modern world,” he said.

The statement came as the Philippines brought to the United Nations last week’s sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship in Recto Bank and abandoning the Filipino fishermen in the sea, saying it is a “felony” to abandon people in distress.

President Duterte and other officials have downplayed the incident as a maritime accident that must not be blown out of proportion.

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