Expansive influence efforts included sister-city networks not covered by foreign diplomacy regulations
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a number of Calgary city officials, academics, and a now-former mayor of St. Johns are all on a list of targets that Chinese officials hope to influence to further the Chinese regimes interests.
The list, disclosed in a leaked government document that was recently obtained by The Epoch Times, reveals names spanning a wide range of sectors and countries in which the Chinese regime seeks to “cultivate talent.”
The document was issued by the Foreign Affairs Office of the municipal government of the northeastern Chinese city of Daqing.
In another document from 2019, Daqings Foreign Affairs Office stated that it would start an initiative called the “one hundred overseas talent cultivation plan.”
The central government and many local governments in China have such talent recruitment programs. A 2019 report by the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission estimated that there were hundreds of such programs at the local government level.
Though the office didnt explain how it would carry out its plan, nor its specific goals, it listed 129 “overseas” individuals it would like to recruit.
The document contained only the first names for some of these individuals, but each entry stated their current or former job positions, their career fields, as well as their contact information.
The list consists of 19 people in Canada, 13 of whom are based in Calgary. Besides Nenshi, the list includes Derek Zhao, who at one point was in charge of the China initiative at Calgary Economic Development, and a number of other senior officials with the city. Other targets are academics, a senior administrative official with the University of Calgary, and senior executives with a number of Calgary-based businesses.
The City of Calgary is a sister city of Daqing, also an energy hub.
A spokesperson for Nenshi told The Epoch Times that the mayor was not aware he was on any list.
“While Daqing has been one of Calgarys sister cities since 1985, Mayor Nenshi has had no personal contact with city officials,” Adam Noble-Johnson, the mayors communications strategist, said in an email.
The document also lists officials from the Atlantic provinces. Included are former mayor of St. Johns Dennis OKeefe, as well as an official with Halifax Partnership—the citys economic development organization.
The Epoch Times contacted Calgary Economic Development and the mayors office in St. Johns but didnt hear back.
The list has targets that span the globe, including people in the United States, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Spain, and the current mayor of the small city of Esbjerg in Denmark, whom The Epoch Times contacted but didnt receive a reply. Two former mayors of the Australian city of Perth were also included.
According to China commentator and Epoch Times contributor Heng He, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dubs its city partnerships as “citizen diplomacy.”
Heng says the Chinese organization in charge of promoting ties between Chinese and foreign cities, the Chinese Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), has senior Party officials among its ranks and “is a proxy of Chinas Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
“In this way, in addition to the official embassy and consulate, CCP foreign affairs agencies have added a quasi-diplomatic organization that isnt on the list of diplomatic envoys and isnt regulated by foreign governments,” he says.
According to Heng, the friendship city can be “co-opted” to perform tasks that further the CCPs interests without being noticed. This includes “united front work,” the CCPs term for efforts to influence people and organizations overseas to promote its agenda, Heng says.
Scholars Clive Hamilton and Marieke Ohlberg write in their new book “Hidden Hand” that Chinese officials use sister city arrangements to build personal relationships that can then be “weaponized” when a city plans activities that go against CCP positions, such as deals with Taiwan or meetings with the Dalai Lama.
The CCP uses a strategy dubbed as “using the countryside to surround the cities,” note Hamilton and Ohlberg. This strategy takes its origin from before the CCP came to power in China in 1949, when the Party retreated to the countryside and surrounded the cities in its fight against the rival Nationalist Party.
“This slogan should not be understood only in the literal sense; the idea is to go to areas where the CCPs enemies are weak or not well represented, organize the population there, and then use them to encircle the enemys strongholds,” the book says.
Connections with these local politicians can then be leveraged to pressure national governments.
Then-head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Richard Fadden, said in 2010 that a number of provincial and municipal politicians in Canada are suspected of being under the influence of foreign governments.
Other security experts and China analysts have supported that position.
“The CCP will carefully identify where the centres of political, economic, and cultural power lie, and who are the most powerful people in those areas,” Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.
“It will then attempt to create a profile of each person and find a way to approach them to draw them into the CCP world.”
Hamilton said the CCP is very good at “disguising its operations,” hiding behind ideas such as “people-to-people exchanges” or “win-win cooperation and building economic linkages.”
“Mostly the elites themselves are duped by this strategy, because the CCP plays on their weaknesses, itRead More – Source