A recent investigation by The Associated Press revealed that China has been cultivating relationships with officials and lawmakers in Utah, despite few apparent ties between the two. The report suggests that these efforts have yielded dividends for Beijing both at home and abroad, as Chinese officials have been able to delay legislation that they disagree with, block resolutions of displeasure with Chinese actions, and generate statements of support that boost the image of the Chinese government.
The success of China’s campaign in Utah is a part of a broader effort to cultivate allies at the local level, as the country’s relationship with the US and its Western allies has grown more contentious. US officials are increasingly warning that such campaigns pose a significant threat to national security, with local leaders at risk of being manipulated by foreign powers.
The AP report documents how Chinese officials have worked to build relationships with a broad array of Utah officials, from state lawmakers to business leaders to university officials. These efforts have included the provision of gifts and trips to China, as well as other forms of support that have helped to cultivate friendly relationships with local officials.
Chinese officials have also been able to exert influence over Utah lawmakers and officials by leveraging China’s economic power. Utah, like many other US states, is deeply reliant on trade with China, making officials in the state more susceptible to pressure from Beijing.
The extent of China’s influence campaign in Utah is not yet fully clear, but the AP report suggests that it is a growing concern for US officials. The US government has been increasingly vocal about the threat of foreign interference in American political affairs, and there are signs that China’s efforts in Utah are part of a broader campaign to shape American policy at the local level.
As China continues to grow in power and influence, it is likely that such efforts will become more common, raising serious questions about how the US should respond. For now, the focus is on identifying and countering such campaigns, with officials warning that foreign interference in American politics is a serious threat that must be taken seriously.
The AP investigation highlights how China’s influence campaign is not limited to Utah but is part of a much broader effort to build relationships with local leaders across the US. Beijing’s focus on local-level officials comes as relations with Washington have deteriorated, and the Chinese government seeks to exert more influence over policy decisions in the US.
In response to China’s influence campaign, US officials have urged local leaders to be cautious when engaging with Chinese officials or accepting gifts and invitations. They have also encouraged greater transparency around foreign investments and donations to ensure they do not compromise national security.
The US government has taken several steps to counter Chinese influence in recent years, including the passage of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires individuals and organizations to register as foreign agents if they engage in certain activities on behalf of foreign governments. In addition, the US has implemented tighter restrictions on Chinese investment in sensitive sectors such as technology and telecommunications.
Despite these efforts, China’s influence campaign has continued to gain traction, with some US lawmakers calling for more robust measures to counter it. With China’s growing economic and political clout, it remains to be seen how effective these measures will limit Beijing’s influence on the US political landscape.
As the US and China continue to navigate their complex relationship, it is clear that the battle for influence will be fought on multiple fronts, including the local level. The AP investigation is a stark reminder that the threat posed by China’s influence campaign is real and requires ongoing attention and vigilance from US leaders and citizens alike.