New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman last month hosted a delegation from a think tank helmed by a Chinese government adviser deeply enmeshed in Beijing’s propaganda operations.
Friedman met in July with Wang Huiyao, the president of the Center for China and Globalization, to discuss “megatrends and the transformation of globalization in the post-pandemic era.” Friedman also hosted the group at Planet Word, a Washington, D.C.-based language museum run by his wife, Ann.
Wang advises the Chinese government, is an official at two united front organizations, and helped develop China’s controversial “Thousand Talents” program, which the FBI says Beijing uses to steal trade secrets from American companies and create national security risks for the U.S. government. The think tank has been linked to China’s united front system, which the Communist Party uses to influence “universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists,” and government officials, according to a Trump administration report.
Friedman, reportedly one of President Joe Biden’s favorite newspaper columnists, wrote in a Times column on Tuesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D., Calif.) trip to Taiwan is “utterly reckless.” The columnist has repeatedly urged government officials to take a softer stance toward Beijing. Chinese state media last year touted Friedman’s remarks in an interview with Wang that America could not succeed without a “healthy relationship with China.” He conducted a glowing interview in 2019 with the head of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, in which he asked what “America loses” by blocking the company from building 5G infrastructure because of its links to Chinese intelligence.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist has also made inaccurate claims about China’s efforts to deter Russia’s actions in Ukraine. While criticizing Pelosi’s trip in an interview last week, Friedman said that “China is helping us” in Ukraine and cautioned against “poking the bear right now.” But U.S. officials have publicly criticized Beijing for supporting Russia, as the Times reported last month. The State Department said in May that Chinese Communist Party media outlets “routinely amplify Kremlin propaganda, conspiracy theories, and disinformation.”
Like Friedman, Wang also criticized Pelosi for her Taiwan visit, calling it a “very, very bad move” in an interview with Bloomberg News over the weekend. And he portrayed China as a potential peacemaker in Ukraine in a Times op-ed in March. The Gray Lady came under fire for the piece for failing to disclose that Wang is a Chinese government adviser.
The Center for China and Globalization has downplayed its links to the Chinese government, saying that it is “independent from direct government control.” But the organization acknowledges that Wang advises several Chinese government agencies and serves on two organizations—Western Returned Scholars Association and the China Overseas Friendship Association—that are both part of the CCP’s united front.
The Biden administration in an intelligence memo last month sounded the alarm about the united front. The director of national intelligence called the united front “a coalition of entities working towards CCP goals” that plays a leading role in China’s “foreign influence efforts.”
The center touted the stateside trips as an overseas think tank “engagement mission … filled with productive meetings.” Wang met with leaders of several groups known for sympathetic views toward China, including the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Asia Society, and the U.S.-China Business Council. After meeting with Friedman, Wang visited with the head of CGTN America, a TV station controlled by the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department.
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