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Russia is not the only country that tries to influence American democracy. A report out today says China's Communist Party tries too, and it has a lot of money to spend as it works to influence the U.S. government and society and economy. Here's NPR's Rob Schmitz.
ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: No, China's not trying to interfere in our elections, not at least according to this report. But, says report co-chair Orville Schell, China's government is trying to interfere in several other sectors of American society.
ORVILLE SCHELL: It's much larger than simply business and trade. It now has expanded out to include things like philanthropy - large amounts of money given to universities, to think tanks, to NGOs from China. And very often, that money will come, not with any explicit prohibitions, but with implicit ones that if you want to get more, don't say this, don't say that, be nice, et cetera.
SCHMITZ: The 200-page report was sponsored by Stanford University's Hoover Institution, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands and the Center on U.S.-China relations at the Asia Society in New York, which Schell directs. It's titled "Chinese Influence & American Interests." And it grew out of discussions with more than two dozen China experts - experts who had engaged with China for decades and who believe that as the relationship between the U.S. and China grew closer, their paths forward would gradually converge with China opening up.
SCHELL: But I think as Xi Jinping took office, the idea that we were actually diverging, that China's political system - its values were not so much in transition as just there.
SCHMITZ: This realization sunk in, says Schell, last March, when China's legislature altered the nation's constitution to eliminate term limits for leader Xi Jinping.
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PRESIDENT XI JINPING: (Speaking Chinese).
SCHMITZ: Schell says doing away with term limits for Xi became a metaphor for his expansion of control and power both inside and outside China, firmly placing his country on a separate competing path with the United States. Schell's report examines eight different sectors in the U.S. that China's attempting to influence, from the U.S. Congress and local governments to universities and corporations. It examines the different agencies under the Chinese government that have led these efforts and how successful they've become at it. Schell says, after a year-and-a-half of research, he and his team came to an important conclusion.
SCHELL: That the relationship between the U.S. and China is not reciprocal - that the open society of the United States gets used for Chinese purposes in myriad ways that are not available to Americans in China.
SCHMITZ: For example, the U.S. allows China's government to establish Confucius Institutes at more than a hundred American universities. China does not allow a similar arrangement. Chinese media is able to operate freely inside the U.S., while American media are severely restricted inside of China. The same is true for businesses, think tanks, NGOs and research facilities. The Chinese always seem to enjoy more freedoms in the U.S. than the Americans do in China.
The report's solutions urge American government and society to be more transparent about their relationships with Chinese institutions. And when China limits the rights of American institutions in China, the U.S. should do the same to Chinese institutions on American soil. It also urges Americans to act with integrity when Chinese actors try to coerce them. As the report points out, openness and freedom are fundamental elements of American democracy and intrinsic strengths of the U.S. and its way of life - values that must be protected.
Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Shanghai.
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