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    China’s attempt to gain political power and influence in foreign countries is “a new global battle,” according to former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. David J. Firestein, a professor and a founding executive director at the China Public Policy Center, in a written interview for Sputnik discussed Clinton’s comments.

    Speaking at a conference in New Zealand Clinton said Chinese interference in domestic policy was apparent in Australia, New Zealand even in the US.

    “In Australia and here in New Zealand experts are sounding the alarm about Chinese efforts to gain political power and influence policy decisions,” Clinton said.

    New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters that Clinton’s statements about China were not new.

    China has constantly denied any meddling in the domestic affairs of foreign countries. 

    “In response to the Australian government announcing a tightening of espionage laws last year, China said it respected the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” the Guardian reported.

    In an interview with Sputnik, David J. Firestein said, “Hillary Clinton’s recent comments, made in New Zealand, about China’s ‘efforts to gain political power and influence policy decisions’ reflect a growing concern, now very evident in the United States, about China’s ‘influence operations.’  They reflect, I think, an increasingly widespread unease with the fact that, over the last several years and decades, China has gotten much more deft and sophisticated in its national communications with foreign audiences.”

    He further said that there is a strong sense of concern among a relatively small number of federal lawmakers, journalists and academics due to the fact that these observers aren’t used to seeing China undertake public diplomacy and similar types of activities as effectively as it is doing now.

    “More fundamentally, a deeper angst and sense of vulnerability felt by many in the United States about China’s economic and geopolitical rise and what that rise means for the United States,” the professor said.

    With respect to Clinton’s recent comments, Firestein said that what’s interesting is that Clinton stated, “In Australia and… New Zealand, experts are sounding the alarm” about Chinese efforts, essentially putting some distance between herself and the observation.

    “Secondly, it’s important to put Clinton’s even fairly (and commendably) measured remarks into some perspective:  like virtually all US candidates for political office, she’s offered vastly more scathing criticism to (even Democratic!) political opponents than she is offering here toward China.  So, for my part, I would caution against reading too much into Clinton’s comments,” Firestein added.

    Talking about whether whether the claims of some US observers speaking in recent months were hypocritical due do US’ interference in the internal affairs of other countries, the professor said that  there has, in fact, been a very high degree of hypocrisy in recent US commentary about Chinese efforts to inform and influence US public opinion.

    “In short, the critics are chastising China for doing the very things we do every day; and, of course, that is hypocrisy in its purest form. Americans just don’t like China’s message and want to curtail China’s ability to deliver it in the United States,” he said.

    He went on to give examples that the US that show the hypocrisy, such as when the United States seeks to inform and influence foreign public opinion in support of US foreign policy objectives, it’s "public diplomacy."  When the Chinese do the same thing, it’s "influence operations."

    “We exude ‘soft power.’  China wields ‘sharp power.’  We work with ‘partners.’  China’s collaborators are ‘agents.’  We seek to share and promulgate our ‘cherished values.’  China is ‘infiltrating’ us.  And again, the list goes on,” Firestein said.

    The professor said that, in his own view, the market can resolve the competition of ideas, not the government.  

    “That’s always been the American way and it has always served our nation well.  There is no question that China does not allow the market to sort out these issues to nearly the same degree the United States always has; but, in my judgment, the path China has taken in this regard is not the right path for the United States,” the analyst concluded.

    The views and opinions expressed by David J. Firestein are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    bilateral relations, tensions, interview, politics, economy, Hillary Clinton, China, United States
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