The trips often came just before opinion editorials and news reports excusing Chinese Communist Party crimes, or opposing trade showdowns with the nation.
The China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) was founded by the Vice-Chairman of the “highest-ranking entity overseeing” Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Department, an effort which aims to “co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority” of the Chinese government. “The United Front strategy uses a range of methods to influence overseas Chinese communities, foreign governments, and other actors to take actions or adopt positions supportive of Beijing’s preferred policies,” the U.S. government report continues.
CUSEF uses United Front Department tactics of influence on Western journalists from virtually every Western media outlet: CNN, New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and many more. According to Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filings with the Department of Justice, CUSEF retained Western lobbyists to aid in their quest to “effectively disseminate positive messages to the media, key influencers and opinion leaders, and the general public” regarding China.
The National Pulse can now exclusively reveal Western journalists – including those praised by President Biden and married to potential members of his White House – who are listed as having accepted trips from the Chinese Communist Party influence group.
- Vox Co-founder and New York Times columnist Ezra Klein;
- Vox Co-founder Matthew Yglesias;
- CNN Senior Political Analyst and The Atlantic Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein;
- New York Times Reporter Bradford Plumer;
- Associated Press Vice President and Editor Marjorie Miller;
- The Hill Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons;
- Former NPR Senior Editor Marilyn Geewax;
- Former Newsweek and Wall Street Journal Marketplace Editor Kathleen Deveny;
- Former U.S. News and World Report Correspondent Tom Omestad;
- Chicago Tribune Columnist and Editorial Writer Steve Chapman;
- Former National Journal Correspondent Bruce Stokes (And the husband of President Biden’s Deputy Secretary of State nominee who has also taken CUSEF trips);
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Washington Bureau Chief Craig Gilbert;
- The Week columnist Shikha Dalmia.
Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell also identified herself as accepting CUSEF trips, burying a disclaimer on the bottom of two articles “The U.S. and China fight for second place” and “The Olympics gives China a second chance at human rights reforms”:
(Disclosure: My trip is being paid for by the China-United States Exchange Foundation, a Hong Kong-based nonprofit that aims to improve Americans’ understanding of China.)
Pay for Play?
While those named above represent a fraction of the journalists taking CUSEF trips, the influence of the program on participants’ subsequent reporting is easily discerned.
Trip participant Shikha Dalmia penned an op-ed entitled “China Bashing is for Losers” the same year she traveled to China.
Brad Plumer has also lauded the Chinese Communist Party’s climate change efforts, penning pieces entitled “China’s ambitious plan to limit carbon emissions, explained.”
Similarly, Bruce Stokes has shared articles warning that “decoupling” from China would “backfire” and Catharine Rampell has authored op-eds such as “Opinion: Team Trump should be careful what it wishes for on China.”
Ezra Klein appeared to laud the Chinese Communist Party’s COVID-19 response, tweeting “I keep hearing that China bough us some real time and our government wasted it doing nothing and downplaying the threat.” Fellow Vox Co-founder Matthew Yglesias also tweeted about wanting to “give Party flunkies notes” on how to better craft “propaganda” and that “Moody’s, S&P, and the People’s Bank of China should just run the government”:
Steve Chapman, who also crusaded against Trump’s trade war, tweeted that “China may have a bad human rights record, but you don’t have to take off your shoes for airport security.” Chapman also wrote a now-deleted article that outlined “the case for buying U.S. Olympic outfits from China.”
Ronald Brownstein also pushed back against criticism of China and the World Health Organization’s handling of COVID-19. “Trump’s latest offensive to blame 100k American dead on China & World Health Organization handling of “Wuhan virus” is not only a return to familiar cultural/racial polarization but also the latest reminder that when all you have is a hammer literally everything looks like a nail,” he tweeted. The comments followed Brownstein authoring a CNN op-ed attacking Trump’s trade war with China.
All Roads Lead to Biden.
In addition to the spouse of the potential Deputy Secretary of State appearing on the list, a journalist on the list – Steve Clemons – has been praised by President Biden.
Biden told his Chinese Communist Party counterpart that Clemons was a “very important man” that he should “really want to speak to”:
While taking pictures of the two Vice Presidents with a new iPhone 5, Vice President Biden pointed at your pool, whose name is Steve Clemons, and gestured to VP Li Yuancho saying “he is a very important man. Seriously he is important.” Your pool demurred as best he could. This will surprise some but it is true.
Then Vice President Biden told Vice President Li, “You should speak to him. He is the one you really want to speak to. Seriously.”
Pool froze up not knowing what to do but smile and wave a bit to Vice President Li. As Vice President Biden and Vice President Li began to walk away towards the banquet hall door, Vice President Li Yuanchao stopped and looked at your pool and said in deep, halting, but distinctive English, “Vice President Biden is a good friend to you and to me.”
VP Biden winked the direction of your pool and the two vice presidents walked into the banquet hall. Clemons’s pool report continued, describing how Biden, while accompanied by his son Hunter, offered to buy him an ice cream bar:
Quite suddenly and 2:34 pm, the vice president’s motorcade stopped with Vice President Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and granddaughter Finnegan Biden jumping out of their vehicles. They began to walk along the south side of the shopping street, zeroing in first on a small shop that had nothing classic in it—but sold water, sodas, various household convenience items and Magnum ice cream bars. The vice president seemed thrilled to find the Magnum bars and decided to use your pool as a prop again, calling out to your pool, and saying “you want an ice cream bar?”
Your pool replied, “Don’t tempt your pool … but no.”