The Harvard Kennedy School – a public policy-focused graduate school – has collaborated extensively with various propaganda arms of the Chinese Communist Party seeking to influence Western organizations to “adopt positions supportive of Beijing’s preferred policies.”
One of America’s premier institutions, the Harvard Kennedy School, has partnered with the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) on studies and research reports for over a decade.
CUSEF’s Founding Chairman doubles as the leader of the “highest-ranking entity overseeing” the Chinese Communist Party’s United Work Front, which according to the U.S.-China Security and Economic Review Commission, seeks to “co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of its ruling Chinese Communist Party” and “influence overseas Chinese communities, foreign governments, and other actors to take actions or adopt positions supportive of Beijing’s preferred policies.”
It has set out to “effectively disseminate positive messages to the media, key influencers and opinion leaders, and the general public” regarding the Chinese Communist Party, according to Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filings with the Department of Justice.
A summary of the partnership on CUSEF’s website reveals the Chinese Communist Party-linked organization partnered with the university on trips to China.
Delegations, comprised of 18 Harvard Kennedy School graduate students, spend 10 days on an annual “study trek to China. A summary reads:
The delegation visited Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai, participating in substantive meetings to achieve a better understanding of China’s global engagement as well as the opportunities and challenges the nation faces on the world stage. Through discussions with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Affairs Department of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), in addition to regional organizations and businesses such as the Sichuan Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, and NIO Shanghai, the students gained greater awareness of the ways in which China collaborates with foreign nations and received a first-hand experience of the unique economic and global state of affairs China finds itself in today.
In addition to meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials and state-run think tanks, schools, and influence groups, delegation members reveal they’ve also toured Huawei facilities.
CUSEF brochures contain pictures of the delegation, showing students being lectured by professors at state-run Peking University and by a former Major General of the People’s Liberation Army.
The CUSEF site also contains students’ glowing reviews for the trips, oftentimes including praise for the Chinese Communist Party.
These unearthed testimonials follow FARA filings revealing CUSEF has also paid for Western journalists to travel to China in exchange for “favorable coverage” and to “effectively disseminate positive messages to the media, key influencers and opinion leaders, and the general public.”
A member of a 2016 Harvard-CUSEF trip wrote a reflection entitled “The Foreign Media Doesn’t Do Justice To China,” which was published on the organization’s site. The student noted that the trip reversed the “negative connotations in me about China’s aggressions in the region, China’s oppression, China’s pollution…”
“What I found was astonishing and rather positive,” they noted before adding that communism was “the only possible system to lift the country from massive poverty to incredible growth”:
Chinese officials are not the autocratic rulers that are depicted in some of the press. Obviously, China is not a democracy and there still are many human rights topics to be solved, including censorship and freedom of the press. However, in the many officials we have met, I found that they all shared a pragmatic approach to solving public policy problems. Using more analytics and less politics is their motto and the United States may greatly benefit from relying further on analytics and less on politics given the current gridlock in our system. The political system in China, with its many weaknesses, has probably been the only possible system to lift the country from massive poverty to incredible growth.
The delegation member notes they “will do what I can, throughout my professional career in life, to promote further collaboration.”
Another student who participated in a 2019 trip wrote:
I found fascinating how all of this is transformed today in a modern and advanced country which is searching its space and role in the world. China has resources to implement ambitious projects related to poverty reduction, environmental protection, urban planning, and regional integration. During the past decade alone, it has undergone impressive changes which are shifting China’s role and narrative: from developing to developed country; from an occupied territory to regional/world power.
CUSEF promotional brochures also feature testimonials from students, including praising China as a “country that has made such incredible progress”:
‘Arm of the State.’
While on the trip, Harvard delegation members also met with the Chinese People’s Association with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), another component of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front.
The U.S. State Department has described the group as seeking to “directly and malignly influence” U.S. state and local leaders, is led by the daughter of a former Chinese Communist Party paramount leader, and is “avowedly an arm of the party-state.”
A delegation visited in 2019, meeting with the Director-General of the Department of American and Oceanian Affairs who noted that “youth exchanges are the most important channel for the friendship between the two countries and serve as the solid foundation for our future cooperation.”
“We hope that the young leaders from Harvard will broaden their horizons, deepen their understanding of China through this visit, so as to be the future ambassadors of friendly exchanges between China and the U.S.,” the CPAFFC leader added.
“The head of the delegation and graduate student of Harvard Kennedy School, Sanjay Seth, said that the delegation hopes to deepen their understanding of China’s development through this visit and are willing to try their best to make positive efforts to deepen the friendship between the peoples of the U.S. and China and to enhance bilateral youth exchanges,” a summary described.
The Deputy Director-General of the CPAFFC also met with a Harvard Kennedy School delegation in 2016.
Pictures from CUSEF promotional brochures reveal the group met with the organization in 2014 when they “attended the 60th Anniversary of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.”
CUSEF and the Harvard Kennedy School have also collaborated on research reports.
A 2009 CUSEF promotional brochure describes the “Harvard Shared Vision Project”: a “joint research project involving scholars from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University” and from state-run institutions including “Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.”
The project culminated in a book – Power and Restraint – which “upholds the message of the CUSEF, that China and the United States can, and must, work together to improve mutual understanding in order to confront the challenges that are common to both nations.”
To launch the book, CUSEF hosted an event in Washington D.C. featuring speeches by Biden’s climate czar John Kerry, CUSEF founder Tung, and Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School David Ellwood.