The two China experts document how China is invading the West, including through political manipulation and economic and technological pressure, through denunciation and corruption of academic institutions, by undermining our values and infiltrating the Chinese diaspora. Here, overwhelming descriptions of Chinese unscrupulousness are set against Western naivety and the tendency of Western institutions to be bought. One of the book's quotes reads: "It is difficult to get someone to understand when the salary depends on not understanding." The source material extends over 150 pages and torpedoes all desire to question the information.
A geostrategic leadership position
The authors equate China with the Communist Party (CCP), which indicates that there is no China outside the party. (Note that the People's Republic of China was founded by the party, not the other way around.) On the other hand, they do not equate this China with the Chinese people – unlike the CCP itself – which calls all criticism of the party an attack on the people.)
The authors' criticism is aimed at a party that is behind all areas of society's areas of influence, with tentacles around the globe. Those on the left who, with regret, have seen the fall of communism in the East, use the argument of so-called whataboutism, like "everything is hardly good in China, but what about the United States?" Hamilton and Ohlberg cut this short: "Suppression of freedom and human rights through China's communist regime can neither be relativized nor excused. There are no limits to Jinping's dictatorial impulses. All political dissent has been silenced. "
The new Silk Road project is a glaring example of Chinese control and expansion strategy. As of 2019, sixty countries had joined this initiative. In Asia Minor, Indochina and the Far East, Chinese state-owned companies are investing in roads, ports, airports, railways, energy networks and dams. Through this infrastructure, it has, among other things, become easier for China to gain acceptance for its annexation of islands in the South China Sea, a geopolitically combustible issue.
Students are encouraged to report teachers who show deviant tendencies.
In Europe, Chinese companies own airports, ports and wind farms in nine countries, as well as multiple firms, such as Italian Pirelli, various office buildings in London's financial center and thirteen football teams. The Chinese navy is also increasing its presence in the Mediterranean sea. The CCP assures that the infrastructure is intended solely to stimulate trade. In reality, the People's Republic pursues a long-term plan that, according to the authors, aims to increase the country's political influence, reduce the recipient countries' spheres of activity – and build both civilian and military facilities, with the aim of enabling long-range naval operations.
In Chinese-language documents, naval experts from the Liberation Army describe the strategy as follows: "Choose places carefully, move forward discreetly, emphasize cooperation and slowly infiltrate." Thus, the Silk Road Initiative for Beijing is one of the most important instruments for attacking regional arrangements and strengthening alternative forms of government, such as authoritarian state capitalism. Externally, the CCP speaks of "a large family in harmonious coexistence". Inside, it is about how China can set a global discourse agenda and take a geostrategic leadership position.
The three T's: Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen
"Thought management" – does that sound odd? Not for CCP. For the party, ideas play a crucial role in the competition for political power, and consequently the academic world plays an important role. In the ideological struggle, it is a matter of silencing criticism of the party, exporting notions of China-adapted censorship and supporting research that highlights the benefits of "the Chinese way, the Chinese system and Chinese theories"; in addition, to prevent "hostile forces" from destabilizing the belief in the CCP. Students are encouraged to report teachers who show deviant tendencies. In Wuhan, a professor lost her job after expressing "wrong" opinions about the abolition of a limited term of office for the president. Thought management.
Another target is Chinese students abroad. Xi Jinping has categorized them as "one of three new focal points in the united front work". The work consists primarily of preventing young people from becoming "infected" with Western ideas. When students at the University of Toronto had elected a woman from Tibet as president of the student union, she fell victim to countless murder and rape threats. "Mistakes" such as commenting on the three T's are severely cracked down on: Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen.
Not to mention Hong Kong or the detention camps in Xinjiang Province. Here, under torture, Uighur Muslims are forced to recite the CCP's political slogans and pay tribute to Xi Jinping. Even worse – genocide measures such as forced sterilization are routine. A woman who was commanded to teach in the camps ultimately succeeded in emigrating to England, where she was interviewed by The Guardian. She was forcibly sterilized at the age of 50 years.
Intellectuals and publishing houses
China showed its true face when its foreign minister warned Norway last autumn against choosing a human rights activist for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, it is important for China to be liked – not least after the Hong Kong unrest. Thus, the CCP values systemic self-censorship the most. Effective means of achieving this are, for example, denying Western journalists and researchers entry to the country.
Here we are at a core point in the war of values between China and the West. Seeking truth no matter where the path leads is a fundamental aspect of academia as we want to know it. We lose this when money becomes a decisive factor, something China knows how to exploit. For many universities, tuition fees for Chinese students are good business, something they reluctantly give up, not least when government support for education shrinks. In 2018, American universities had more than 360 000 students from China – also in the UK, Canada and Australia, the numbers are high. After the University of San Diego in California visited the Dalai Lama in 2017, the Chinese government declared that Chinese researchers would no longer have their studies funded there.
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Today there is an official program called "foreigners write about China". Money is given to sinologists, authors, media, researchers and other important public figures, who at the invitation of Chinese publishers will write books about China – to "spread China's voice". With this, the CCP encourages Chinese publishers to form partnerships with reputable international publishers, implied by the desired censorship of unwanted material. The large science publishing house Springer Nature in Berlin, which publishes the magazines Scientific American and Nature, among other things, left it to the Chinese authorities to decide which articles should not be found on their online platform in China.
Is there no China outside the party?
Serious conditions emerge from another dilemma for intellectual property culture: Many Western publishers have a large proportion of their titles printed in China, especially the illustrated ones, as this is relatively cheap. In 2019, an agent for Chinese printing companies provided Australian publishers with a list of words and themes that should not appear in books printed in China. The list includes names of Chinese dissidents and political figures, including Xi Jinping.
Hearts and minds
The silent conquest contains a large number of both disillusioning and clarifying descriptions of how China infiltrates the West and thereby weakens our democracies, our integrity and our power to act. The book is less about why, and one could easily think that the answer is self-evident. Power, control, influence – the usual. But between the lines there is a further answer. The China / CCP / Jinping trinity wants to convince the world that their system, their worldview, is as good as – if not better than – the West. The Unity Front – the CCP's most important working tool – works day and night to incorporate all countries into its unified way of thinking and to gather all interests in China's interest pool. For what can beat this – to shape people and other nations in their image ?!