“The ruling Chinese Communist Party has long had a strategy of using “the local to surround the center”
Amidst fresh warnings to Congress by FBI Director Chris Wray about CCP hackers targeting American infrastructure and preparing to “wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities,” a new Washington Post report details China’s strategy of targeting state and local officials to get around tensions in Washington.
The January 30 story examines the escalating risk of ground-level connections undermining national policy or even disrupting the democratic process. New Zealand University of Canterbury Professor Marie Brady, who focuses on Chinese influence operations, told the Post the ruling Chinese Communist Party has long had a strategy of using “the local to surround the center,” as part of its strategy to cultivate local support in other countries. “We have a hostile foreign state that’s deliberately trying to target your political elite to engage in political warfare,” Brady said. “It’s an ongoing challenge, [and] we can expect now in the lead-up to the election that there will be more examples of foreign interference.”
This isn’t the first warning for state and local officials. In March 2022, the AP reported that at least six state governments were hacked by the Chinese government. In July of the same year, the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center issued a notice warning of China’s aggressive campaign to exert influence at the state and local levels. The notice provided specific detail on China’s strategy to collect personal information on state and local leaders and their associates.
Fortunately, state lawmakers are beginning to heed the warnings are passing policies to mitigate vulnerabilities and restrict state procurement of technology manufactured by companies owned or operated by the Chinese government. For more on what states are doing, visit CTT’s State Stop China Tech page and read about the growing list of states that are already advancing bills at the start of 2024.
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