Anyone who has seen a magic show understands the principle of sleight of hand. While the audience is looking one way, the real action is happening elsewhere. There is no real magic involved. It is all a trick.
You can see this technique on display in the actions of the Biden administration right now vis a vis China. Two U.S. carrier battle groups are in the vicinity of the contested South China Sea. Every day their presence is appropriately trumpeted through the mass media outlets that function as the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. The implication is clear. Joe is no Communist lackey. He can get tough with Xi if he has to.
Meanwhile, back home, something very different is happening.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses propaganda and influence operations as a means of projecting its power and weakening its enemies. Chief amongst the targets for these kinds of operations is the United States. These operations are not run on some kind of ad hoc basis. They are coordinated and directed at a national level by the CCP’s United Front Work Department.
The United Front system has been around for a long, but it has been greatly energized and expanded in recent years by Xi Jinping. It operates inside foreign political parties, diaspora communities, colleges, and corporations – all with the goal of promoting the party’s interests. The express goals of the United Front system are undermining social cohesion, exacerbating racial tension, and influencing politics. It is designed to destroy China’s enemies from within.
Chinese “Confucius Institutes” on dozens of U.S. campuses are part of the United Front Work Department. These institutes are present today in some 500 K-12 schools and 65 colleges in the United States. The institutes are staffed by Chinese nationals. They exist to feed students and faculty positive images of Communism and the Chinese Communist Party.
Confucius Institutes are run by the government of China. They are propaganda arms of the CCP operating on our soil and shaping the minds of our young people who then go on to careers in business, academia, and the government. Criticism of the Confucius Institutes in the United States has been appropriately intense in recent years. Many colleges have forced them off-campus.
In its last days, the Trump administration proposed a rule that would have required American schools and universities to disclose their partnerships with Confucius Institutes. China is in the process of rebranding its Confucius Institutes and looking for ways to continue pumping propaganda into the minds of our young people without being detected by American authorities. The rule proposed under President Trump would have gone a long way toward blocking those efforts and illuminating what the CCP was up to.
No more. The Trump proposal was withdrawn from consideration on January 26, 2021. No explanation by the Biden administration was given, but then none was really necessary.
Tony Blinken is Joe Biden’s Secretary of State. Until he took the post, Blinken was Managing Director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement that Joe Biden established in 2018 at the University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Biden Center is seemingly just as much a part of Chinese United Front activities as any Confucius Institute. It is funded in large measure by the CCP, and it appears dedicated primarily to pushing Chinese propaganda inside the United States.
Since its founding, the Penn Biden Center has received . Until questioned about it, the Center reported none of those donations even though it was required to by law. In excess of $20 million is still categorized as having come from anonymous Chinese sources. One donation alone, received on May 29, 2018, was for $14.5 million.
The Penn Biden Center steers completely clear of any topics, which might displease the Chinese and, in fact, focuses its attention on subjects and themes that dovetail nicely with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda worldwide. A great deal of time has been devoted over the last two years to bashing President Trump and blaming the Russians for most of the world’s ills. Not a single word has been printed or uttered by the Center apparently, about forced labor camps in China, live organ harvesting from Uyghur captives, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong or China’s role in the ongoing worldwide pandemic.
These are the actions of an institute created by the current President of the United States and bearing his name. Any expectation, then, that this administration will hold the line against Beijing or act in the interests of the United States is absurd. Joe Biden does not want to limit the reach of the CCP inside the United States. He has for years being actively involved in expanding it.
The carrier battle groups will continue to sail in circles for some time to come, at least as long as the distraction they cause is useful to Beijing. Their presence is meaningless beyond the diversion they create. Meanwhile, back home, the real trick is ongoing. Biden is giving Beijing a free hand.