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Subnational Infiltration: Using Western Countries’ Local Governments to Counter the State’s Policy

The Voice of America (VOA)  published an article that discussed two research reports exploring the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) subnational infiltration of Western countries. According to the reports, in a systematic way, the CCP takes advantage of the pluralistic and decentralized nature of the Western political system to rope in and encourage local governments to confront and dismantle, at the sub-national level, their state’s negative policies toward China. The VOA called it “encircling the cities from rural areas,” a military strategy that the CCP used to win the civil war in China in the late 1940’s.

In the U.S., the CCP’s strategy is to bypass Washington and to target the governors, mayors, and non-governmental organizations directly. The purpose is to foster a positive connection between Beijing and the local officials or organizations.

The two reports refer to the “All Over the Map” strategy. This strategy addresses the Chinese Communist Party’s “subnational Interests in the United States” as reported by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the “Big fish in small ponds strategy,” which is China’s subnational diplomacy in Europe” as discussed in an article by the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS).

The FDD report states that China has a long history of trying to influence local governments in the United States, including through events and forums that promote U.S.-China relations and friendship cities (or sister cities), Internet forums, governors’ forums, and other examples. Though at the national level, the U.S., holds a critical attitude toward Beijing, the National Governors Association expresses positive descriptions about Beijing.

The MERICS article pointed out that, within the five biggest member countries of the European Union – Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland, local governments have established 146 partnerships with the CCP. In many situations, Beijing or its entities can sign investment or cooperation treaties with Europen cities or regions, which usually do not need the central government’s participation.

Source: VOA, December 7, 2021