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State Dept.: China is ‘grading’ US local officials on potential for Chinese influence

China and US flags (Sgt. Mikki Sprenkle/WikiCommons)
October 08, 2020

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, in an interview with Breitbart News Tonight on Tuesday, warned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was “paying attention” to the U.S. governance not just at national level, but also within local communities; looking to see which ones are susceptible to Chinese influence.

Ortagus told Breitbart that China’s ruling party is continuously examining U.S. officials to determine if they are “amenable” to China. Ortagus said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the early part of 2020, spoke to a bipartisan National Governors Association, describing the extent of Chinese influence at the state level.

“The secretary was able to get a document declassified that he spoke to the governors about, where he essentially said, ‘Listen, the Chinese Communist Party is watching you,'” Ortagus said. “They’re looking to see, they’re grading you in a sense, can you be worked with. Are you someone who just isn’t into me and is a foe who can’t be worked with at all or are you somebody who is more amenable?”

As another example of Chinese efforts to influence the U.S., Ortagus noted Confucius Institute centers, which she said are billed as a “cultural bridge” between the U.S. and China, but which she said presented “pretty dangerous pro-communist propaganda” on China’s behalf. She noted the Trump administration’s move in August to designate Confucius centers as foreign missions of China.

Ortagus also cited the example of requests made by Chinese officials, asking a Wisconsin state lawmaker to pass a resolution praising China for its handling of the coronavirus.

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“So the Chinese Communist Party is paying attention not only what happens in Washington, they’re very much paying attention about what happens in your local area,” Ortagus said.

Breitbart host Matthew Boyle also noted the example of California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who in April of 2019, gave prepared remarks a Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, where she called on participants to consider how China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure development strategy could address the issue of climate change. In her remarks, Kounalakis called on participants to “consider how the Belt and Road Initiative can drive positive action around this global threat.”

“Terrible” Ortagus responded, calling the Belt and Road initiative “China’s debt diplomacy to the world.”

Boyle said, “they’re trying to circumvent Washington and take advantage of states and local governments and they’re doing this on a regular basis around the country, and you guys are on top of this.”

“That’s absolutely right,” Ortagus said.

Earlier in the interview, Ortagus said before President Donald Trump’s administration, the U.S. was “asleep at the wheel” with regards to China, “Because we kept thinking that if we did business with China, if we brought them into some of these multilateral institutions . . . the WHO, the U.N., the WTO and all these organizations, that they would start behaving more responsibly.”