President Joe Biden’s nominee for CIA Director – William J. Burns – is under fire for his position as leader of a Chinese Propaganda Group.
Burns served as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace starting in 2014. This position rewarded him with more than $540,000 per year. It also gave him ample opportunity to speak with officials directly linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In 2019, Burns invited congressional staffers on a trip to China. It included a meeting with Li Xiaolin, president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). The CPAFFC is a front group for the CCP. The U.S. State Department has criticized it for trying to “directly and malignly influence” state and local officials in the U.S.
In 2016, Burns welcomed CITIC Consulting CEO Zhang Yichen to the think tank. “We are very fortunate to have Zhang Yichen on our board,” said Burns. “I look forward to working with him to make Carnegie an even finer institution.”
Yichen is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (a group that advises the CCP on policy issues). He also belongs to the Center for China and Globalization (a Beijing-based think tank linked to the CCP).
Zhang’s exorbitant donations to Carnegie (up to $1.5 million) included funding for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
Located on the campus of Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, the Center “brings together leading policy experts and practitioners from China and around the world to engage in collaborative dialogue and research” and to “identify constructive solutions to common global challenges.”
The Center’s work also includes hosting forums with the CCP-linked Center for China and Globalization to discuss US-China relations.
Burns has also been questioned about Carnegie’s relationship with Hong Kong-based think tank China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), which donated up to $500,000 to Carnegie. US intel has described CUSEF as a “major player in the CCP’s organizational apparatus for conducting united front work in the United States.”
CUSEF and other groups are known to play a key role in Beijing’s influence efforts in the US and overseas. Bill Evanina, who led counterintelligence during the Trump Administration, has expressed concerns regarding the increase in “malign foreign influence” aimed at Biden’s associates and administration employees: “We’re starting to see that now play across the country to not only the folks starting in the new administration but those who are around those folks in the new administration,” said Evanina in December.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Burns said he is breaking ties with Carnegie as he prepares for the Biden Administration.
Speaking Wednesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burns described the Chinese government as a “formidable, authoritarian adversary.”
He also agreed with the opinion that Beijing uses front groups – including CUSEF and Confucius Institutes – for propaganda efforts in the US.
“Beijing tries to advance its soft power and pro-China propaganda through cultural and educational programs at US academic institutions,” confirmed Burns. This includes the use Confucius Institutes to “spread positive portrayals of China and steer conversations from topics sensitive to the CCP.”
US officials increased scrutiny of Confucius Institutes during the Trump Administration. But President Biden withdrew a proposal designed to increase transparency of the partnerships between Confucius Institutes and American universities.
Editor’s Note: Just wild speculation, but when an intelligence agency recruits an agent, it is often the case that they publicly break relations in order to cool off the apparent connections while maintaining a more covert relationship. Note to FBI: Could China have recruited Burns?