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How the Chinese Government Infiltrated America

The spy balloon was only the beginning

May 2023

Script

Click to reveal bonus content (fun facts and additional insights) within script.

 

No one knew exactly what it was when it first appeared in the skies above Montana.

It was nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty.i

The early, confused reports said it looked almost like a second moon.ii

In short order, of course, we learned what it really was: a massive Chinese spy balloon.

And as it cut a path across the United States, Americans only grew more outraged. How could China act so brazenly within our own borders?

Which would’ve been a perfectly reasonable question…

…if it wasn’t for the fact that China has been doing way worse … for a long time.

[OPENING SEQUENCE]

You know the stereotype: Americans can’t agree on anything anymore. Well, there’s at least one big exception to that rule: Across the political spectrum, Americans are united on the idea that China is a problem.

As recently as 2018, 53 percent of Americans still had a favorable perception of the country.iii By early 2023, that had fallen to 15 percent.

Seriously. There are gum diseases that poll better.

And polling also shows that Americans regard China as, by far, the United States’ greatest enemy. iv

Now, you could say we’re just being paranoid but … the Chinese government is explicit about its goal to become the most powerful country in the world in the next 25 yearsv — which, given that that position currently belongs to us, is not exactly a sign that they want to be friends.

Now if you’re aiming to be the world’s dominant power there are some obvious steps you need to take: Develop a huge economy. Build a powerful military. Steal every other country’s cuisine and turn it into a mid-market chain.

Ok, that last one might just be us.

But if you’re an authoritarian government like China’s, getting to #1 also involves doing whatever you can to undermine anyone who might oppose you. And a startling amount of that activity is happening right here in the U.S.

Lest that sound like we’re being dramatic, consider the following: The Chinese government has essentially been running its own “police stations” — those are the director of the FBI’s words, not oursvi — right here in the U.S.vii

Their purpose: to monitor and harass Chinese immigrants who are critical of the government in Beijing. In fact, in 2022 the Justice Department uncovered a plot in which they targeted a Chinese immigrant running for Congress in Brooklyn … and planned to take him out with a car crash.viii

And research by human rights advocates has revealed that China runs similar installations in 53 countries around the world.ix The result: over 230,000 expatriates who were “persuaded to return” to China to face potential criminal charges, often through threats to members of their family who are still in the country.x

And this is far from the only time the Chinese government has made its influence felt on our soil.

In 2017, hackers backed by the Chinese military stole the personal information of approximately 145 million Americans — things like addresses, birthdates, and social security numbers — from the credit agency Equifax.xi

Why was that data valuable? In part, to get better intelligence on Americans who might have access to national secrets.xii

That was the story of the ex-CIA employee who gave the Chinese government highly classified information about American operatives in China; a man who, as his personal information likely showed, was deep in debt.xiii And here’s the kicker: The Chinese government recruited him — as they attempt to do with thousands of people around the world — by offering him financial opportunities … through LinkedIn.xiv

Which is obviously terrible … but, y’know, nice to know that someone finds it useful.

In fact, the Chinese government has grown increasingly comfortable using social media as a weapon.

Chinese diplomats often get big numbers on Twitter for criticizing Western governments, pushing their agenda straight into your feed. But a study from the Associated Press and Oxford University found that as much as half of that engagement comes from fake accounts likely tied to the Chinese government.xv

In 2022, YouTube reported shutting down over 53,000 channels because they were part of Chinese influence operations. xvi

And it’s not just social media. The Chinese government has spent millions of dollars getting its propaganda into publications like the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Time magazine — where you often wouldn’t even know that it isn’t real news.xvii

Beyond strongarm tactics and media manipulation, there’s also a long pattern of Chinese economic espionage.

Stealing $1 billion worth of R&D into advanced battery technology from a company in Oklahoma.xviii

Attempting to pilfer the research behind COVID vaccines.xix

Even an instance where the Chinese stole American technology used in submarines … and then patented it and tried to sell it back to us xx — which is less the behavior of a superpower than the behavior of a cartoon burglar, but whatever.

So, no, Americans aren’t just being paranoid when it comes to China. We’ve never faced an adversary quite like this before. After all, even during the Cold War it wasn’t as if the Soviet Union had woven itself into our economy and our culture.

But China? They’re capable of exerting so much influence within our borders that we may not even know when we’re being manipulated. And, because of our economic interdependence, the process of unraveling that influence is likely to be slow and costly.

So, until that day comes, we all have to stay vigilant. We have to keep a watchful eye on the Chinese government. And we have to be very, very careful about where we buy our submarine supplies.

Source(s)

  1. "What We Know So Far About the Chinese Spy Balloon and the Other Objects the U.S. Shot Down" (Caitlin Yilek) — CBS News
  2. "The Chinese Balloon and the Disappointing Reality of UFOs" (Marina Koren) — The Atlantic
  3. "Record-Low 15% Of Americans View China Favorably" (Megan Brenan) — Gallup
  4. "Americans Continue To View China as the U.S.’s Greatest Enemy" (Mohamed Younis) — Gallup
  5. China and the World: Issues for Congress — Congressional Research Service
  6. "FBI Director 'Very Concerned' by Chinese 'Police Stations' in U.S." (Michael Martina, Ted Hesson) — Reuters
  7. "With FBI Search, U.S. Escalates Global Fight Over Chinese Police Outposts" (William K. Rashbaum) — New York Times
  8. Five Individuals Charged Variously With Stalking, Harassing and Spying on U.S. Residents on Behalf of the PRC Secret Police — U.S. Department of Justice
  9. Patrol and Persuade - A Follow up on 110 Overseas Investigation — Safeguard Defenders
  10. 230,000 Chinese “Persuaded to Return” From Abroad, China To Establish Extraterritoriality — Safeguard Defenders
  11. Chinese Military Hackers Charged in Equifax Breach — Federal Bureau of Investigation
  12. "The Threat Posed by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to the Economic and National Security of the United States" — Federal Bureau of Investigation
  13. "How a $230,000 Debt and a LinkedIn Message Led an Ex-CIA Officer to Spy for China" (Ken Dilanian) — NBC News
  14. "Exclusive: U.S. Accuses China of ‘Super Aggressive’ Spy Campaign on LinkedIn" (Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay) — Reuters
  15. "Army of Fake Fans Boosts China’s Messaging on Twitter" (Erika Kinetz) — Associated Press
  16. Threat Analysis Group: The Latest on Our Efforts to Counter Government-Backed Attacks — Google Threat Analysis Group 
  17. "Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022" (Sarah Cook, Yuichiro Kakutani) — Freedom House
  18. Chinese National Sentenced for Stealing Trade Secrets Worth $1 Billion — U.S. Department of Justice
  19. "U.S. Accuses Hackers of Trying To Steal Coronavirus Vaccine Data for China" (Julian E. Barnes) — New York Times
  20. "The Threat Posed by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to the Economic and National Security of the United States" — Federal Bureau of Investigation

Shownotes

Sound | Premium Beat: "Fired Up" Zane Knight // Artlist: "Presto" Adrián Berenguer, "The Verge" Night Rider 87 // Pro Sound Cloud Library // Artlist SFX Library // Pond5 SFX Library  

Footage | The New York Times // The Wall Street Journal // Associated Press // CNN // CBS News // NBC News // Washington Post : U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia // Epoch Times // National Public Radio // SafeGuardDefender // Equifax // Federal Bureau of Investigation // U.S. Department of Defense: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley // U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration: Duck and Cover (1951), Survival Under Atomic Attack // U.S. Government // U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration // Foreign Lobby // Free Beacon // Law & Crime // China News Service 中国新闻社 // China Daily // New China TV // 环球时报 Global Times // Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn // MySpace // Snapchat // Twitter: @HuXijin_GT, @SpokespersonCHN, @AmbLiuXiaoMing // Getty: Artbeats, Yok_Piyapong, Rarrarorro, Giddyuptimelapse, Craig McCourry, lathuric, SensorSpot, Pool / Pool, Igor Alecsander, Morsa Images, Juanmonino, Ferrantraite, Caspar Benson, C. Maher / Stringer, Keystone / Stringer, Zagorskid, FotografiaBasica, Jessikla, Lintao Zhang / Staff, Tzido, XiXinXing, Vchal, China Photos, Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer // Adobe Stock: Pixel-Shot, Dglimages. Nosorogua, Sevendeman, Cavan for Adobe, Anze, Line-Art, Wachiwit, RnDmS, Razihusin, Uros Petrovic, Eriksvoboda, Oxinoxi, Travel man, Oleksandr Pokusai, Elokua // Pixabay: Clker-Free-Vector-Images // Flickr: Miquel Angel Pintanel Bassets // Unsplash: Paul Hanaoka, Cierra, Spencer Imbrock, Drew Farwell // Storyblocks: Guillaumelynn, Kokhanchikov, Amazing Aerial, Spring, Vivekfx, Bennyb, ConceptCafe, Stockmedia, Ami Bornstein, Jakerbreaker, Nopow, A Luna Blue, RichardjJones // Vecteezy: Faisal Ical, Carlso Avila, Khaii Nauy, Desain Simple // Chipotle // Bahama Breeze // Benihana // Olive Garden // Outback Steakhouse // P.F. Changs // Panda Express // Taco Bell // LuciferAhriman // Gary Todd // Narendra Modi // Chase Doak // CITED SOURCES AND NEWS OUTLETS ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND HAVE NOT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED ANY PORTION OF THIS PRODUCTION. 

Sources

  1. CBS News
    "What We Know So Far About the Chinese Spy Balloon and the Other Objects the U.S. Shot Down" (Caitlin Yilek)
  2. The Atlantic
    "The Chinese Balloon and the Disappointing Reality of UFOs" (Marina Koren)
  3. Gallup
    "Record-Low 15% Of Americans View China Favorably" (Megan Brenan)
  4. Gallup
    "Americans Continue To View China as the U.S.’s Greatest Enemy" (Mohamed Younis)
  5. Congressional Research Service
    China and the World: Issues for Congress
  6. Reuters
    "FBI Director 'Very Concerned' by Chinese 'Police Stations' in U.S." (Michael Martina, Ted Hesson)
  7. New York Times
    "With FBI Search, U.S. Escalates Global Fight Over Chinese Police Outposts" (William K. Rashbaum)
  8. U.S. Department of Justice
    Five Individuals Charged Variously With Stalking, Harassing and Spying on U.S. Residents on Behalf of the PRC Secret Police
  9. Safeguard Defenders
    Patrol and Persuade - A Follow up on 110 Overseas Investigation
  10. Safeguard Defenders
    230,000 Chinese “Persuaded to Return” From Abroad, China To Establish Extraterritoriality
  11. Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Chinese Military Hackers Charged in Equifax Breach
  12. Federal Bureau of Investigation
    "The Threat Posed by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to the Economic and National Security of the United States"
  13. NBC News
    "How a $230,000 Debt and a LinkedIn Message Led an Ex-CIA Officer to Spy for China" (Ken Dilanian)
  14. Reuters
    "Exclusive: U.S. Accuses China of ‘Super Aggressive’ Spy Campaign on LinkedIn" (Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay)
  15. Associated Press
    "Army of Fake Fans Boosts China’s Messaging on Twitter" (Erika Kinetz)
  16. Google Threat Analysis Group 
    Threat Analysis Group: The Latest on Our Efforts to Counter Government-Backed Attacks
  17. Freedom House
    "Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022" (Sarah Cook, Yuichiro Kakutani)
  18. U.S. Department of Justice
    Chinese National Sentenced for Stealing Trade Secrets Worth $1 Billion
  19. New York Times
    "U.S. Accuses Hackers of Trying To Steal Coronavirus Vaccine Data for China" (Julian E. Barnes)
  20. Federal Bureau of Investigation
    "The Threat Posed by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to the Economic and National Security of the United States"

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