military china

Deleted Web Pages Reveal Dean of National Defense University Visit with Chinese Communist-Run Think Tank.

China’s influence operations have reached the top of the U.S. military, as well as its training organizations.

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A deleted newsletter reveals that a Dean from the U.S. National Defense University led a delegation to a Chinese Communist Party think-tank labeled as a “front group for Chinese intelligence collection and overseas spy recruitment” by the FBI, The National Pulse can reveal.

The higher education establishment in Washington, D.C. has operated since 1976.

Details of the 2005 visit were posted to the website of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), which has been flagged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its close ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s top spy agency: the Ministry of State Security.

The FBI has described the Chinese Communist Party as dependent upon SASS employees to serve “spotters and assessors” of potential Western spies. Ministry of State Security officers – described by the FBI as keen on “influencing the foreign policy of other countries” – have also “used SASS affiliation as cover identities.”

SASS – which the FBI explicitly labels a “front group for Chinese intelligence collection and overseas spy recruitment” – was a key player in a 2019 criminal case involving a retired Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative selling classified U.S. defense documents to the Chinese Communist Party.

A May 2005 issue of the think tank’s Overseas Academic Exchange Newsletter reveals that Cynthia Watson – who now serves as the Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at the National War College of the National Defense University – led a 12-person delegation to Shanghai to visit SASS.

“On May 16, a group of 12 people from the National War College of the National Defense University, headed by Cynthia Watson, visited and discussed the internal and external environment of China’s peaceful rise, the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and the democratization of the Middle East,” explained the SASS in its now-deleted newsletter.

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Several Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks were in attendance, including SASS Vice President Huang Renwei, Foreign Affairs Office Director Li Yihai, and Deputy Director Wang Jian.

Watson’s visit to SASS could pose a conflict of interest given her influential role at the National War College, which describes its mission as “educat[ing] future leaders of the Armed Forces, Department of State, and other civilian agencies for high-level policy, command and staff responsibilities.”

Watson joined the school’s faculty in August 1992.

Watson has also contributed to the journal China U.S. Focus published by the China United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), one of the Chinese regime’s premier foreign influence groups. During a June 2020 interview, Watson appeared to criticize the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy, which she described as “China-centric.”

“The one observation that I would make that’s not very popular in this city right now is I think that as you look at the challenges in the international system, you need to recognize that those challenges are not simply because of one regime,” she remarked in reference to the Chinese Communist Party.

“In other words, you need to ask whether the challenge is in fact a nation that sees itself – a people and a nation that see itself – as having a role in the world or is it a regime, and I think all too often we assume that regime change will solve these things, and I think in most cases they don’t,” she continued.

The unearthed ties between the leading U.S. military educator follow The National Pulse reporting how high-ranking personnel in the Biden White House – including the individual overseeing the National Security Agency’s hiring process – have been affiliated with SASS. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point also has ties to Chinese Communist Party influence groups.


Natalie Winters

Natalie Winters is freelance reporter.

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