American intelligence officials recently issued a warning that the Chinese Communist Party is concentrating its influence operations on “more pliable” local leaders.
The Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass, and the head of Beijing’s top influence organization may have met for this reason.
Chinese officials target state and local officials in the US to favor China
Despite American intelligence warnings, Karen Bass met with Lin Songtian, the president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. This happened during his visit to the United States last month.
During his 10-day trip, Lin met with Fiona Ma, the Treasurer of California, and different think tanks that are friendly to China.
This meeting took place several weeks after intelligence officials issued a warning that China is targeting local and state officials because they are “more malleable” than federal officials.
US: During his US visit, key CCP united front figure Lin Songtian met with Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeleshttps://t.co/4ySYSXcPPw pic.twitter.com/GBxmIZ3Syd
— Matsalleh Merah (@MatsallehMerah) March 12, 2023
The recent meeting between Lin Songtian and Karen Bass, as well as other local officials and pro-China think tanks, raised concerns about China’s influence activities at the state and local levels.
This comes after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a warning that China is increasing its efforts to build influence at the state and local level to shift U.S. policy in its favor.
American intelligence officials have also warned that the Chinese People’s Association is used to influence state and local leaders for China’s global agenda in a malicious manner.
Some have viewed the meeting between Lin and Bass as a defiance of these warnings, which could have implications for U.S.-China relations.
Chinese organization accused of trying to influence American officials
Chinese influence operations in California have been a recurring issue, with Chinese officials targeting Democratic officials, such as Bass and Ma, in particular.
In 2009, while serving in the California Assembly, they were involved in blocking a resolution to recognize Tibet and the Dalai Lama. This is an action that had been heavily influenced by lobbying efforts from Chinese diplomats in Sacramento.
Rep. Eric Swalwell cultivated a relationship with a Chinese spy when he served as a city councilman and later as a congressman.
Fang Fang planted an informant in Swalwell’s congressional office and had sexual relationships with at least two midwestern mayors. Sen. Dianne Feinstein employed a suspected Chinese intelligence agent in her district office for years.
The Chinese People’s Association has gone after the mayor of Los Angeles in the past.
As deputy mayor of Los Angeles, Nina Hachigian met with the head of the Chinese People’s Association at least twice to discuss cooperation in “areas such as sister city, environmental protection, and youth.”
According to the director of national intelligence, the Chinese government “may exploit” its sister city agreements to further its political agenda. Lin reported in his recent meetings, he discussed sister city projects.
Lin said he went to the U.S. to talk about “friendship exchanges,” but analysts say it was really part of China’s larger plan to influence American officials and further its own goals.