Gavin Newsom’s China Trip Shines Light On California’s Partnership With ‘Malign’ CCP Influence Operation
03 November 2023
By Philip Lenczycki
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent trip to China, in which he sought to bring China and California closer together to address climate change, shines a light on the state’s partnership with a “malign” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence operation.
The Chinese People’s Association For Friendship With Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) recently took credit for inviting California Gov. Gavin Newsom to China, the DCNF reported. However, CPAFFC’s ties to California extend back over a decade and include meetings with multiple Democratic lawmakers as well as a formal 2018 agreement, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of CPAFFC and California government records.
On Sept. 12, 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with CPAFFC establishing a joint program that facilitates an annual U.S.-China Subnational Climate Dialogue, according to a copy of the agreement posted on the California Energy Commission’s website.
Two years later, the State Department characterized CPAFFC as part of a “malign” Chinese influence operation. The State Department also labeled CPAFFC as an affiliate of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), which carries out Chinese intelligence and influence operations, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
“The Chinese People’s Association For Friendship With Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) is tied to the United Front Work Department, a Chinese intelligence arm,” Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn told the DCNF. “It was extremely careless for Governor Gavin Newsom to visit China at the invitation of the CPAFFC.”
The 2018 MOU between the state of California and CPAFFC details the creation of a so-called “California-China Program.”
“To enhance the bilateral relationship and foster collaboration, California and China agree to establish the California-China Program, coordinated by the California Governor’s Office and the Chinese Friendship Association, to be affiliated with the U.S.-China Governors Forum, aiming to build regular dialogue between California and Chinese subnational counterparts to discuss the critical issues of mutual interest outlined above,” the 2018 MOU reads. “The California-China Program will facilitate a yearly U.S.-China Subnational Climate Dialogue, jointly established, on September 12 of 2018, at the Global Climate Action Summit.”
In 2011, the National Governors Association and CPAFFC established the U.S.-China Governors Forum with the support of the State Department and the Chinese government. The forum’s goal was “to promote understanding and cooperation between the two sides by creating a platform of peer-to-peer exchanges for subnational leaders to discuss areas of mutual interest,” according to State Department records.
But in October 2020, the State Department discontinued its participation in the MOU, accusing Beijing of exploiting the forum to wage a “malign influence” campaign. The department identified CPAFFC as part of that effort.
“Chinese People’s Association For Friendship With Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), a Beijing-based organization tasked with co-opting subnational governments, has sought to directly and malignly influence state and local leaders to promote the PRC’s global agenda,” the 2020 press statement continued. “CPAFFC’s actions have undermined the Governors Forum’s original well-intentioned purpose.”