Controversial China Summit Reels in Top California Democrat, Think Tank Officials

Controversial China Summit Reels in Top California Democrat, Think Tank Officials robert hertzberg arrives at gala Robert Hertzberg attends the Fourth Annual Berggruen Prize Gala in New York City on Dec. 16, 2019, in New York City. (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Berggruen Institute )

By Theodore Bunker | Friday, 14 May 2021 10:22 AM

A Democrat serving as California's Senate leader and a group of think tank officials have come under fire for reportedly agreeing to attend a diplomacy summit in Beijing that's being organized by a group with connections to the Chinese Communist Party.

The 2021 China-U.S. Public Diplomacy Summit in Beijing on Friday will feature California Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg and scholars from the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Wilson Center, the Asia Society, and several other top think tanks, The Washington Free Beacon reported. The event is hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association, which was founded by the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hertzberg is set to speak at the event, which will be held at Remnin University in Beijing and live-streamed online, as is Daniel Schrag of Harvard University's Belfer Center, among others.

A spokesperson for Schrag said that "Dan intends to speak freely and critically on climate matters, as he would in front of any audience.”

CIA Director William Burns warned during his confirmation hearing in February that China has a multitude of organizations "to advance its soft power and pro-China propaganda through cultural and educational programs at U.S. academic institutions."

"Every think tank, every university, every lawmaker, and every corporate executive should realize that meetings like these are influence operations orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party intended to slowly undermine America," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told the Free Beacon.

Rubio serves as the Senate Intelligence Committee's Vice Chairman and also chairs the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which, in a 2018 report, found that the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries "performs dual roles of intelligence collection and conducting propaganda and perception management campaigns."

The group's website lists affiliations with the United Front Work Department and Communist Party. The Confucius Institute, which has been accused of being a vehicle for Chinese propaganda, is included as one of the association's members, as are state-run media outlets China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and People's Daily.

Friday's event in Beijing features keynote speeches by the Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton, who is the global co-chair of the Asia Society, and Stephen Lakis, the president of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. Daniel Victor of the Brookings Climate Change Initiative, and Jerrold Green of the Pacific Council on International Policy are set to serve as panelists. Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council is also scheduled to speak.

The China Public Diplomacy Association did not respond to the Free Beacon's request for comment.

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