Sen. Chris Coons and a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter June 11 to the Trump administration, raising concerns about China’s attempts to undermine democratic institutions and civil discourse in the U.S. and supplant American leadership and alliances abroad.
The senators, including members of the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Intelligence, Banking and Judiciary Committees, called on the administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to counter Chinese actions, which aim to manipulate public discourse and democratic institutions in support of China’s interests.
In the letter, the senators cited several cases wherein organizations and individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party attempt to exert undue influence over media outlets and academic institutions — in the U.S. and abroad — to serve China’s political interests. They also called attention to cases overseas where China sought to mobilize political elites, as well as nationals of Chinese ancestry, in support of CCP-backed policies. The letter is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Hank Green.
“We are concerned that while some of these efforts may seem innocuous when taken independently, collectively they represent an attempt to increase the appeal of autocracy and strengthen Chinese leverage over U.S. allies,” said the senators. “We want to make clear that we believe our government should welcome transparent diplomacy from all nations. We recognize that the United States and many nations around the world engage in public relations and strategic communications efforts designed to improve the nation's public image, shape international policy debates, and promote economic opportunities. These efforts are fundamentally different from those that seek to suppress information, and undermine democratic institutions and internationally accepted human rights.”
“We firmly believe the United States must continue to support the free and transparent flow of information and the independence of democratic institutions from undue influence, particularly when other governments are seeking to undermine them. Indeed, without developing a clear strategy to counter these efforts, the independence of democratic societies may be at risk,” the senators continued. “That risk extends beyond the borders of our allies — for one of democracy’s greatest defenses against autocracy is the support of other likeminded nations.”