CIA Director’s Former Think Tank Introduced Congressional Staffers to Experts Who Worked for Chinese Spy Fronts
By: PHILIP LENCZYCKI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER | November 30, 2022
- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace introduced congressional staffers to at least 10 individuals who worked for Chinese intelligence front groups during a 2019 sponsored trip to China while current CIA Director William Burns was the nonprofit’s president, the Daily Caller News Foundation determined after reviewing author Alex Joske’s book, “Spies and Lies.”
- Since at least the 1980s, Chinese spies have impersonated scholars aiming to influence U.S. nonprofits and policymakers, Joske found.
- “A lot of the key scholars and other figures involved in U.S.-China relations on the Chinese side have these sorts of relationships,” Joske told the DCNF.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace introduced congressional staffers to at least 10 individuals who worked for Chinese intelligence front groups during a 2019 trip to China while current CIA Director William Burns served as the nonprofit’s president, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found.
During the week-long, all-expenses-paid trip to Beijing, a bipartisan group of congressional staffers from the offices of various representatives — including Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes and former North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows — met with Chinese government officials, journalists, academics and policy experts, according to the trip’s itinerary. Yet, at least 10 of the Chinese individuals worked for front groups controlled by Chinese spy agencies, such as the Ministry of State Security (MSS), the International Liaison Department (ILD) and the intel arm of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the DCNF determined.
The congressional staffers participated in a number of discussions with undisclosed Chinese intelligence front group members, such as a Nov. 6 “pre-dinner dialogue” concerning “Chinese perspectives on U.S.-China policy challenges,” which included Ding Yifan, a member of the MSS-controlled Institute of World Development Studies.
PLA’s Second Intelligence Department carries out military intelligence operations, while the ILD focuses on political intelligence and the MSS serves as China’s equivalent of the CIA, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The DCNF was able to identify some of the individuals who participated in Carnegie’s 2019 trip as being tied to Chinese intelligence agency front groups by cross-referencing the itinerary with the research of several prominent Chinese intelligence specialists, including former CIA analyst Peter Mattis and Alex Joske, a former analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Joske’s new book, “Spies and Lies,” details how, since the 1980s, Chinese intelligence operatives co-opted or established various nonprofits and impersonated scholars with the goal of luring prominent Western think tanks, such as Carnegie, into partnerships in order to influence U.S. government policies towards the communist nation.
Carnegie’s cooperation with Chinese intelligence front groups dates back to at least 2004, when, under the leadership of former think tank president Jessica Mathews, the nonprofit launched a joint program with the MSS-controlled China Reform Forum, according to Joske’s research. More than a decade later, Carnegie co-hosted the 2019 congressional staffer trip, which occurred while current CIA Director William Burns served as the think tank’s president.
“A lot of the key scholars and other figures involved in U.S.-China relations on the Chinese side have these sorts of relationships,” Joske told the DCNF. RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: CIA Director’s Former Think Tank Hired Experts From Nonprofits Controlled By Chinese Spy Agencies)
The six day trip, which was co-hosted by Carnegie and the Aspen Institute, became a flashpoint during Burns’ 2021 confirmation hearings. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio pressed Burns about Carnegie’s ties to a Chinese government-backed group as well as the all-expenses-paid trip that brought 11 congressional staffers to Beijing in 2019.
Burns told Rubio the trip was meant “to provide congressional staff members with an opportunity to engage directly with Chinese counterparts and to express their concerns about Chinese actions and malign behavior quite directly.”
However, the DCNF previously reported congressional staffers were also introduced to the president of a CCP-affiliated front group called the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). In 2020, the U.S. State Department designated CPAFFC as a foreign mission seeking to “malignly” influence American leaders. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon Funded Former Chinese Government Employee, CCP Member’s Nuclear Warfare Research)
Additionally, the DCNF has identified at least 10 individuals listed on the trip’s itinerary who worked for nonprofits controlled by Chinese intelligence agencies. At least three of these individuals were simultaneously working for Chinese intelligence front groups while employed by Carnegie, the DCNF found. Another two Carnegie policy experts who participated in the trip formerly worked for Chinese intelligence fronts.
During the trip, congressional staffers visited Carnegie’s center at Tsinghua University, where they encountered at least three experts who’d worked for intelligence front groups, the DCNF determined.
One of these experts who participated in the visit was Li Bin, a Carnegie nuclear policy fellow, who spoke to congressional staffers about North Korea’s “nuclear threat.” Li Bin is a member of the CCP and a PLA intelligence front group, the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS), according to the group’s website.
A second individual, Cheng Xiaohe, who Carnegie employed as an international relations expert, had previously worked for the MSS front group, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), by Carnegie’s own admission.
The third individual, Yang Wenjing, worked as the chief of U.S. policy at CICIR. While Carnegie did not employ Yang Wejing, Carnegie had featured her as a speaker during events in 2017 and 2018 and continued to feature her at events afterwards.
Wang has a “very close relationship with the Ministry of State Security,” Joske told the DCNF. Wang has since 2000 also served as director of the China Reform Forum, which Joske’s book identifies as an MSS-controlled front group.
Wang has also worked for at least four other intelligence fronts, including the China International Cultural Exchange Center (CICEC) and another MSS front called the China Institute of Strategy and Management (CISM), the DCNF found.
Carnegie, Burns, Wang and the CIA did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
With Republicans preparing to take control of the House, lawmakers are once again scrutinizing Burns’ time at Carnegie and the group’s deep and enduring relationships with Chinese academics, policy experts and government officials.
“The amount of CCP infiltration at Carnegie shows that Director Burns was aware and intentionally concealed it from the American people, or he was grossly incompetent,” Texas Republican Rep. Lance Gooden told the DCNF in September. “Anyone who enables our top adversary is not fit to lead a U.S. intelligence agency.”