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Knowledge Base

Managing the China Challenge

How can American institutions ensure transparency?

American NGOs should play an important role in investigating and monitoring illicit activities by China and other foreign actors. They should as well seek to inform themselves about the full range of Chinese influence activities and the distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate influence efforts. 

In addition, Congress should perform its constitutional role by continuing to investigate, report on, and recommend appropriate action concerning Chinese influence activities in the United States. It should update relevant laws and regulations regarding foreign influence, and adopt new ones, to strengthen transparency in foreign efforts to exert influence. Similarly, executive branch agencies should investigate and publicize, when appropriate, findings concerning these activities, with a view to promoting healthy and responsible vigilance among American governmental and nongovernmental actors. 

The US media should also undertake careful, fact-based investigative reporting of Chinese influence activities, and it should enhance its knowledge base for undertaking responsible reporting. Finally, faculty governance is the key to preserving academic freedom in American universities. All gifts, grants, endowments, and cooperative programs, including Confucius Institutes, should be subjected to the usual procedures of faculty oversight. 

How can American institutions practice integrity?

Various institutions—but notably universities and think tanks—need to enhance sharing and pooling of information concerning Chinese activities, and they should promote more closely coordinated collective action to counter China’s inappropriate activities and pressures. In fact, sectors should formulate and agree to a “Code of Conduct” to guide their exchanges with Chinese counterparts. 

Additionally, rigorous efforts should be undertaken to inform the Chinese American community about potentially inappropriate activities carried out by China. At the same time, utmost efforts must be taken to protect the rights of the Chinese American community, as well as protecting the rights of Chinese citizens living or studying in the United States. 

Finally, all American institutions—governmental and nongovernmental—that deal with Chinese actors (and other potential sources of inappropriate foreign influence) should review their oversight and governance practices and codify and exemplify best standards of practice and due diligence. 

How can the US government promote reciprocity?

The US government public diplomacy activities are heavily circumscribed in China, while nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have encountered an increasingly difficult environment to carry out their work. More reasonable reciprocity for US public diplomacy efforts in China, relative to China’s activities in the United States, should be addressed in negotiations between the two countries. In addition, this report recommends enhanced American efforts to promote independent news and information, and democratic ideas, through US global broadcasting and efforts to counter disinformation. 

The US government should actively promote and protect opportunities for American actors to operate in China.