Until recently, China was seen in the UK mainly as a business opportunity and a welcome source of cheap goods. But theres now a growing realization that the communist regime in Beijing poses a serious threat, not just to British values, but also to the UKs national security.
The recent row over Chinese telecom company Huaweis involvement in the UKs 5G network got considerable UK media attention, but the Chinese regimes influence operations in Britain had started decades earlier.
As detailed in the book “Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World” by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg, the “48 Group Club” grew out of a drive to promote closer relations between Britain and communist China in the early 1950s.
The networking group now boasts high-profile British politicians from across the political spectrum in its ranks, as well as other business and cultural elites.
The 48 Group Club has close links with the United Front Work Department, a department that reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
“Ten years or 15 years ago, it was a bit of a backwater. But its now become far more extensive, far more powerful, and far more influential within government,” Hamilton told The Epoch Times. “The United Front Work Department stands at the apex of this vast apparatus of influence around the world, as well as in China itself.”
This unit coordinates thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of other countries technology to China, according to a recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Its political influence initiatives target foreign elites, including politicians and business executives, and are often covert in nature, according to the report. Overseas Chinese communities are also key targets, with the Party seeking to co-opt and control community groups, business associations, and Chinese-language media.
The United Fronts work abroad amounts to an “exportation of the CCPs political system.” Its effort “undermines social cohesion, exacerbates racial tension, influences politics, harms media integrity, facilitates espionage, and increases unsupervised technology transfer,” the report states.
One of the mechanisms used by the United Front is “China friendship groups,” civic organizations set up ostensibly to foster ties with China but are in fact front groups for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a report by the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a Washington-based think tank, said.
These groups are often disguised as homegrown organizations run by the host countries own citizens—often elites drawn from Europes political class and business community, the CSBA said.
These co-opted elites “parrot the Partys talking points, deflect narratives harmful to Beijings image, host public events that showcase the Partys virtues, promote trade and investment, encourage technology transfers, and voice support for policies favorable to China,” the report states.
The notion of friendship has particular connotations for the Communist Party, and is not how we think of friendship in the West, said Hamilton.
“Any organization that has the name friend or friendship, you know, is immediately suspicious,” he said.
The CCPs Central Propaganda Department is also actively involved in overseas influence operations. Nearly all Chinese-language media in the UK are effectively under CCP control, and even some mainstream UK media outlets have come under the CCPs influence.
For over a decade, the Daily Telegraph carried a supplement entitled “China Watch” both in its newspapers and on its website. The section was funded by China Daily, an official Communist Party newspaper, and was full of propaganda articles hailing Chinas standing in the world. The Telegraph only stopped publishing this paid-for section in April 2020 in the face of increasing criticism and scrutiny over Chinese influence operations in the UK, according to The Guardian.
The Central Propaganda Department also funds Confucius Institutes (CIs), which have been accused of promoting Chinese communist propaganda on British university campuses under the pretense of promoting the Chinese language and culture. There are thousands of CIs all over the world, including about 30 in the UK at universities and over 100 Confucius Classrooms in schools.
Provision of grants and research funds is another way in which the Read More – Source