by Austin Bay
February 2, 2022
In April 2019 the Houston Chronicle, in collaboration with Science magazine, published an article documenting an extensive FBI investigation into communist China's infiltration of major U.S. medical research institutions. One target was the MD Anderson Cancer Center, located in Houston, Texas. Emory University's medical research institute (Atlanta, Georgia) was also a Chinese bullseye.
In June 2019 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) told U.S. Senate investigators that employees at 61 research institutions may have withheld information about undisclosed relations with foreign governments -- meaning undisclosed financial and personal relations that violated strict NIH funding policies. The admission belatedly confirmed a 2018 letter by then-NIH Director Francis Collins warning research institutions that NIH suspected "foreign entities have mounted systematic programs to influence NIH researchers and peer reviewers."
Influence is certainly one of Beijing's objectives. Several notches above mere influence is acquisition of medical data, and in the case of MD Anderson and Emory, theft of valuable data supporting a Nobel Prize-worthy medical breakthrough.
Theft isn't theory. MD Anderson fired three scientists identified as trying to help China steal "U.S. scientific research."
Infiltration to steal data is spying. As the COVID-19/Wuhan pandemic illustrates, medical knowledge has strategic defense value. Vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals save human life. The monsters on our planet, however, could use medical knowledge to create an offensive weapon like a deadly virus.
China's influence, infiltration and espionage operations aren't limited to medical or military data. China knows how to curry below-the-radar favor with international politicians, bureaucrats and opinion leaders, and when a problem develops threatening Chinese Communist Party interests, use covert influence to stifle criticism.
Media --newspapers, TV talking heads, entertainers, reporters, internet trolls, TikTok exhibitionists -- Beijing's influence, infiltration co-optation and blackmail operations target media large, minute and in-between.
As for targeting Media With Impeccable Credentials: in October 2020, The Washington Free Beacon detailed The Economist magazine's years of "sympathetic" coverage of China's Huawei Technologies company. The report connected and documented the magazine's profitable business relationship with the notorious corporate giant. The Free Beacon noted The Economist did not acknowledge that economic relationship for nearly a decade.
In a column I wrote in 2020, I noted "Huawei's deep financial and operational connections to the Chinese Communist Party are no secret. The CCP has final say over Huawei's international operations. That indicates the CCP was a silent partner in the Huawei-Economist arrangement."
From then to now: On Jan. 25 StrategyPage.com published an analysis written by the editor, Jim Dunnigan. (Disclosure: I'm a StrategyPage associate editor and own a small percentage of the site.)
The intro: "The most successful Chinese diplomatic and foreign trade efforts are the ones they want to keep out of the media spotlight. To do that China is using a lot of cash and ingenuity to make it happen. For example, in the last two decades the number of jobs in the West for journalists in the traditional print media (newspapers and magazines) declined by about half. The news business, including most of its advertising revenue, moved to the Internet, where there were fewer traditional journalism jobs and the pay was much lower. Chinese propagandists, media experts and intelligence officials are skilled and well paid, and quick to take advantage of this major change in Western news media."
More: "As the Russians discovered during the Cold War 'cash for compliance' can be very effective. For example, the most important skill for Western journalists reporting Chinese activities inside China and overseas is to do it convincingly. Keep it legal but as convincing as possible."
Beijing's payoff: "...foreign media users don't notice the disconnect between what China wants to be reported and what is actually happening."
Dunnigan, a military historian, goes on to point out that 90 years ago Nazi Germany, "an economically powerful country ... was able to use similar coercions against foreign media."
That is a historical fact.