Beijing is using the “Three Wars” doctrine to easily penetrate Western countries. This includes psychological warfare, public opinion war, and legal war.
These three types of war are little known in the West, and important strategies that help the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fight the free world without firing a single bullet.
With psychological warfare, the CCP demoralizes its opponent. Public opinion warfare is about shaping minds of the masses. Legal warfare is about seeking to use legal systems to thwart enemy attacks.
This is the conclusion of a recently published 650-page report that comprehensively illustrates the CCP’s global influence activities. This French-language report is from the Institute for Strategic Studies of Military Schools (IRSEM), an affiliated independent agency of the French Ministry of Armed Forces.
The three types of war, combined with the “United Front”, form the CCP’s campaign to expand foreign influence and infiltrate Western democracies.
CCP founder Mao Zedong described the United Front as the regime’s “magic weapon.” According to the report, the United Front is a strategy that helps the CCP “eliminate internal and external enemies, control groups that can challenge its power, build an alliance around the party to serve the interests of the CCP, and extend the influence of the CCP abroad.”
The finding came amid growing Western resistance to CCP infiltration including serious human rights abuses, intellectual property theft, economic coercion, and Chinese military aggression.
Conspiring to infiltrate the world
Guided by such strategies, the CCP has built a vast infrastructure on a global scale; includes a wide network of state and non-state actors to carry out its plans.
Beijing’s influence activities abroad include two main goals. One involves seducing and subduing foreign readers by creating a positive story about China. Another is infiltrating and pressuring.
“Infiltration aims to infiltrate gradually into opposing societies, to thwart any behavior that tends to be against the interests of the CCP,” the report states.
“Pressure corresponds to the gradual expansion of so-called ‘punishment’ or ‘coercive’ diplomacy to become a systematic policy of sanctions against any country, organization, or enterprise. or any individual that threatens the interests of the CCP.”
Other CCP campaigns target education, media, politics, culture, and social media.
Much of the CCP’s overseas United Front activities are carried out through an “anonymous network of intermediaries.” This network is closely coordinated by CCP agencies like Chinese embassies, consulates, and the United Front Work Department (UFWD).
In a 2020 then Assistant Secretary of United States David Stilwell accused the CCP of directing thousands of groups of people abroad to carry out political influence activities and suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate technology transfers to China.
Some United Front organizations are public about their ties to Beijing. However, most of them try to present themselves as “independent, popular NGOs, cultural exchange forums, ‘friendship’ associations, chambers of commerce, communication agencies or academic groups,” according to Stilwell.
A 2020 Newsweek investigation found about 600 such groups exist across America.
For example, the report named a United Front group called the US-China Exchange Fund (CUSEF). This is a Hong Kong-based nonprofit led by billionaire and Chinese government official Dong Jianhua. The group identifies itself as an independent group, providing dialogue and exchange between the United States and China. In reality, it “acts as a front organization for the government of the People’s Republic of China,” according to the report.
CUSEF also targeted U.S. media through organizing trips to China for more than 120 journalists from nearly 50 American media outlets since 2009.
On June 8, 2020, a report said the CCP had a far-reaching influence on liberal democracies through United Front organization activities.
Alex Joske of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported the UFWD has increased its global influence since 2015. The operational functions of United Front Work abroad include strengthening CCP political influence, interfering in the Chinese community, suppressing dissident movements, building an international environment that allows for unifying Taiwan, gathering intelligence, encouraging investment in China, and promoting technology transfer.
Studies that explain how United Front-linked businessmen and leaders in the Chinese diaspora draw parliament members from the United Kingdom and Australia into influence activities.
For example, the National Review Deloitte China group established the United Front association for young and middle-aged employees (UFWD) in 2016. At the launch, a Deloitte partner thanked the United Front association for its support of young and middle-aged employees.
“The Deloitte Association of Young and Middle-aged Intellectuals will comply with the Experimental Regulations for UFWD,” the partner said at the time.
Two major party candidates from Australia’s 2019 federal parliamentary election were reportedly United Front organization members, or have visited China with United Front sponsorship.
“United Front organizations also, through Confucius Institutes and Chinese student associations, influence the higher education systems of democratic countries,” Joske said.
Chinese student and scholar associations are the United Front’s main channel for influencing international students. Most Chinese student and scholar associations operate under the guidance of the Chinese embassy and consulate.
The Thousand Talents Program and the overseas professional association supports illegal technology transfers. Civil society organizations are responsible for reporting a list of famous figures, students, and scientists abroad to UFWD.
The report also shows the United Front network has reached out to foreign countries, including all Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance members like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Finding and tracking these organizations is not easy. At the same time, efforts to contain the influence of the CCP should ensure that the interests of the citizens of these countries are unaffected.
Joske urged policymakers to take care in distinguishing between the CCP, Chinese citizens, and Chinese community organization members to clarify and distinguish the “subordinates” of the United Front organization. He called on governments not to “shun” Chinese students and individuals and protect them from United Front surveillance and harassment. However, measures aimed at Chinese students and researchers have always been a hotly debated topic and are often blamed as “racist.”
According to the powers granted to the Secretary of State in Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced visa restrictions on CCP officials, or individuals active in CCP UFWD activities on Dec. 4. These people allegedly engaged in or threatened to use violence, theft and disclosure of personal information, participation in espionage, sabotage. They had also maliciously interfered in either American political affairs, academic freedom, personal privacy, or business activities.
“UFWD regularly threatens members of academia, business, civil society groups, and the overseas Chinese community, including those from ethnic minorities and religions, as they oppose the CCP’s terrible human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, and elsewhere in China,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The purpose of these malicious activities is to entice and coerce sub-national leaders, overseas Chinese communities, academics and other civil society groups in the United States, and other countries to aimed advance policy priorities and report the CCP’s tyranny.”
“I will continue to implement such visa restrictions to make it clear that the United States does not welcome people whose behavior is contrary to the international, rules-based order,” he added. “The United States will continue to monitor how the CCP government responds to these concerns.”