Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden promised a more collaborative approach to China in an op-ed published in a Chinese-language newspaper whose editors frequently attended junkets organized by the Chinese government.
Biden published an op-ed in the World Journal, a U.S. newspaper widely read by the Chinese-American community, on October 22. World Journal, which is owned by a Taiwanese news conglomerate, historically had an anti-CCP tilt but has become open to Beijing in recent years. The newspaper’s editors have attended annual conferences hosted by the Chinese government and reportedly complied with a demand from the Chinese consulate to scrub an advertisement about the Falun Gong, an oppressed religious movement.
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"Our approach to China will focus on boosting American competitiveness, revitalizing our strengths at home, and renewing our alliances and leadership abroad," Biden wrote in the op-ed. "We’ll work to collaborate with China when it’s in our interest, including on public health and climate change."
The Biden op-ed, written in Chinese, comes as his family’s financial relationship with regime-linked oligarchs has drawn scrutiny. Companies led by his son Hunter Biden and brother Jim Biden garnered millions of dollars from Chinese investors. Biden’s business partner, Tony Bobulinski, has said that the former vice president was aware of his family’s business dealings in the country.
Biden sharply criticized President Donald Trump in the op-ed and included an accusation that the president fanned anti-immigrant sentiments against the Chinese-American community by calling the coronavirus the "China virus." Biden also discussed his vision for foreign policy in Asia, where he emphasized ties with Taiwan but did not rule out cooperation with Beijing on issues of mutual interest.
The op-ed’s publication in a newspaper with ties to Beijing speaks to the extent of the Chinese government’s influence in U.S. civil society. A 2001 report by the Jamestown Foundation, a D.C.-based think tank, found that three out of the four most influential Chinese-language papers in the country "are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government of Mainland China." The same report found that while World Journal is not controlled by mainland interests, it has increasingly become vulnerable to Beijing’s pressure campaigns.
The Biden campaign did not return a request for comment.
The World Journal, which boasts a circulation of more than 400,000 per day, was founded with "anti-communism" as its founding principle. The paper softened its anti-mainland rhetoric, however, and came to selectively embrace Beijing’s overtures, according to a report by the Hoover Institution.
"The Journal’s coverage has shifted in recent years and become more pro-PRC in a variety of areas, such as China’s militarization of the South China Sea and its handling of Taiwan and Hong Kong," the Hoover report read. "Sources at the Journal observe that the paper’s owners in Taiwan are interested in growing their business in China, which may help explain the paper’s evolving editorial stance."
World Journal did not return a request for comment.
As part of this growing acceptance of the Beijing government, the paper’s editors have frequently attended an annual forum for the global Chinese media in recent years. According to the forum’s web page, the annual event is cohosted by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the Chinese State Council, which is now part of the United Front Work Department. The United Front Work Department is an inter-departmental influence-peddling operation that seeks to improve China’s image abroad and influence foreign institutions.
The annual forum appears to push several of the Chinese government’s key agendas, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, a pet project of Chinese president Xi Jinping that involves multitrillion-dollar infrastructure investments in countries abroad.
The Jamestown report also detailed one instance in which the Chinese consulate allegedly influenced the paper’s contents. After pressure from Chinese consulates, the New York edition of the World Journal stopped publishing advertisements from Falun Gong.
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