Friday, November 30, 2018

China Specialists Say Beijing Trying to Influence US Think Tanks

Here is more from the Washington Post:

A distinguished group of China specialists who have long championed engagement with Beijing are now advocating the United States take a more skeptical view of what they see as growing Chinese efforts to undermine democratic values, including free-speech rights, both here and abroad.
“Except for Russia, no other country’s efforts to influence American politics and society is as extensive and well-funded as China’s,” the specialists say in a report to be issued Thursday by a working group convened by the Hoover Institution and the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.
The report finds that though the Chinese are trying to shape the agenda of U.S. think tanks, the institutions are “very resilient” in resisting. “There’s very little evidence that the Chinese are successful when they’re trying to shape think-tank scholars’ writing on China,” said Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

For years the Chinese have been working to gain access to US think tanks, both through legitimate funding as well as through more nefarious methods such as cyber attacks.

Update: Here is the report cited in the above-mentioned article (and full PDF version).  Here is the section specifically on think tanks.  33 scholars from think tanks, universities, foundations, and the media were part of the working group that provided input for the report.

Chinese money is flowing to both think tanks and universities.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lobbyists Relying on Think Tanks to Develop Ties to New Lawmakers

Here is more from Roll Call:

Instead of PAC dollars, corporate interests plan to rely on individual personal donations from their executives, lobbyists and other consultants, instead of the collective contributions from corporate PACs. In addition, lobbyists will be sure to attend meet-and-greets happening over the coming days and weeks with the new members.
Some lobbyists said they also would rely on policy partnerships with think tanks, grassroots activist organizations and charities — as well as shopping op-eds focused on specific lawmakers — for entree to the newly-elected members of Congress.

Individual corporations often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to think tanks in order to influence policy and build relations with other organizations, lawmakers, and government agencies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Hackers Impersonating State Dept. Officials to Attack Think Tanks

Here is more from Reuters:

Hackers linked to the Russian government are impersonating U.S. State Department employees in an operation aimed at infecting computers of U.S. government agencies, think tanks and businesses, two cybersecurity firms told Reuters.
The operation, which began on Wednesday, suggests Russia is keen to resume an aggressive campaign of attacks on U.S. targets after a lull going into the Nov. 6 U.S. midterm election, in which Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, according to CrowdStrike and FireEye Inc.

Every major think tank in the US has been hacked by foreign governments over the past several years, and many face attacks on a daily basis.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#336)

  • Cornell cuts ties with Chinese school after crackdown.  Think tanks cutting ties next?
  • Another day, another Trump official (Peter Navarro) blasting China at a think tank (CSIS).
  • NYT: Why that hot new study may be flawed
  • Businesses turning to public record requests against academic researchers to challenge work at public universities.
  • Seeking work after Congress?  Sharp partisans too poisonous for think tanks?
  • CFR senior fellow Max Boot explains why he left the Republican Party ("Boot now regards the Iraq war, which he giddily championed in explicitly imperialistic terms, as a mistake.") 
  • The Guardian view on political dark money: think tanks must come clean.
  • Russia's RT: Dirty little secret - think tanks are among top culprits in media disinformation crisis. 
  • Banning civilian think tanks in China won't do any good.
  • Flashback to 2006: Think tank will promote thinking.

Monday, November 26, 2018

China Closes One of Last Remaining Independent Think Tanks

Here is more from the Financial Times:

One of China’s few independent economic think tanks has been forced to cease operations in the latest sign of Beijing’s growing intolerance of dissent as economic growth slows amid an ongoing trade war with the US. 
On Monday evening local time the Beijing-based Unirule Institute of Economics announced that “in the current institutional environment in China, unless normal protection by the Constitution and laws is confirmed, Unirule . . . will cease public activities under its name temporarily”, after the business license of its affiliate company was revoked
Sheng Hong, the executive director of Unirule who earlier this month was prevented from leaving China to participate in a forum at Harvard University on national security grounds, said in a statement dated November 9 and published on Monday evening that the license of the company, Beijing Unirule Consulting Co, had been revoked “for the wrong purpose, based on the wrong evidence, and executed at the wrong time and place”.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about China's crackdown on Unirule.

Here is more from Reuters.

Friday, November 23, 2018

CSIS Continues to Monitor China Via Satellite

Here is more from Fox News:

China appears to have constructed a new platform at a remote part of the disputed South China Sea that could be used for military purposes, according to satellite images reviewed by a U.S. think tank on Tuesday.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies said the "modest new structure" appears to be anchored on Bombay Reef, and is topped by solar panels and a radome. A radome is an enclosure that protects radar equipment.
"The development drew attention given Bombay Reef’s strategic location, and the possibility that the structure’s rapid deployment could be repeated in other parts of the South China Sea," the group said in its report.

Earlier in November, CSIS used satellite images to detect secret North Korean missile sites.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Think Tanks Undergoing Fundamental Evolution

This is from David Brooks:

Washington think tanks are undergoing a fundamental evolution. A lot of them, like the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, were built to advise parties that no longer exist. They were built for a style of public debate — based on social science evidence and congressional hearings that are more than just show trials — that no longer exists. Many people at these places have discovered that they have more in common with one another than they do with the extremists on their own sides.
So suddenly there is a flurry of working together across ideological lines. Next week, for example, the group Opportunity America, with Brookings and A.E.I., will release a bipartisan agenda called “Work, Skills, Community: Restoring Opportunity for the Working Class.”

While Mr. Brooks is correct to point this out, it is also important to remember that think tanks are facing other enormous challenges, including more competition from consulting firms as well as the ever-increasing number of think tanks, and credibility issues due to funding sources.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#335)

  • Atlantic Council's Global Energy Forum returns to Abu Dhabi in 2019. 
  • Atlantic Council launches new podcast: Resilient World.
  • Andrea Baertl: What makes a think tank credible?
  • Hudson announces political studies' 2019 summer fellowship.
  • Tracking think tank conference carpets?
  • CAP: Economic development subsidies ain't all that great
  • Joint AEI-CAP report on reforms needed to defend NATO, EU.
  • Miriam Goldstein to join CAP as Director of Ocean Policy.
  • CAP launches new website to track legal battles over the future of public land.
  • CAP visits Puerto Rico.

Monday, November 12, 2018

CSIS Finds Secret North Korea Missile Sites

The foreign affairs think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is making major headlines around the world after finding secret North Korean missile sites.

Here is more from the New York Times:

North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.
The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.
The existence of the ballistic missile bases, which North Korea has never acknowledged, contradicts Mr. Trump’s assertion that his landmark diplomacy is leading to the elimination of a nuclear and missile program that the North had warned could devastate the United States.
 The secret ballistic missile bases were identified in a detailed study published Monday by the Beyond Parallel program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a major think tank in Washington.
The program, which focuses on the prospects of North-South integration, is led by Victor Cha, a prominent North Korea expert whom the Trump administration considered appointing as the ambassador to South Korea last year. His name was pulled back when he objected to the White House strategy for dealing with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.
The report, which was also written with Lisa Collins, a research fellow at the center, supplemented the satellite imagery with interviews of North Korean defectors and government officials around the world.

More about the report can be found here and here.  Besides Victor Cha and Lisa Collins, the report was also co-authored by Joseph Burmudez, who is concurrently a senior fellow at CSIS, senior adviser and imagery analysts for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), author for IHS Markit, and publisher/editor of KPA Journal.

CSIS also uses satellite intelligence in many of its reports on China.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about the satellite imagery that CSIS uses, as well as funding for the project.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Canadian Think Tanks at Risk From Foreign Espionage

Here is more from The Globe and Mail:

Canada’s spy service is warning that Canadian research is “of interest to foreign states,” whose exploitation of such work poses potential harm to “Canada’s national interests.”
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said on Tuesday that it routinely meets with universities to warn them of risks. The Globe and Mail reported this week that at least nine Canadian postsecondary institutions have conducted joint studies in recent years with researchers from Chinese military institutions, including the People’s Liberation Army Information Engineering University, China’s Air Defence College and the elite National University of Defense Technology.
In general, Canadian university policies require joint research to be published openly.
The collaborations, however, have raised concern that Canada’s academic establishment has become a target for Chinese intelligence-gathering, as Beijing conducts a sweeping technological modernization of its armed forces. Some Chinese defence scientists working with Canadian scholars have used the names of what appear to be non-existent civilian institutions rather than citing their military credentials in joint publications.

Think tanks all around the world have been targets of foreign espionage.  In October, US Vice President Mike Pence gave a major speech at the Hudson Institute in which he warned about Chinese espionage at think tanks.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Warning to Think Tankers: Someone May Be Impersonating You

This tweet is from Laurie Garrett, a former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):

Think Tank Watch is aware of several other similar instances where someone was impersonating a scholar using Twitter or other platforms.

Here and here are previous Think Tank Watch pieces about fake think tanks.

There have also been instances of fake think tank documents.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about how fake Chinese think tank accounts were used for spy efforts on the French.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#334)

  • McKinsey and BCG escorted five emissaries from the Saudi royal court to make the rounds at Washington think tanks.
  • Politico: Domestic issues normally associated with Washington think tanks have been repackaged into cultural-resentment fodder.
  • Watching the North Korea watchers (at think tanks).
  • Think tanks unlikely to fund any work that has "income" or "wealth inequality" in its title? 
  • OpenSecrets: A look at the wide-ranging group of think tanks that might wield the Koch network's greatest power.
  • Legislation written by lobbyists and think tanks.
  • Australian think tank releases new satellite footage showing China's "re-education" camps.
  • IPF event (India): The role of think tanks.
  • Group behind Steve Bannon event in Canada funds Canada's biggest right-wing think tank.
  • RAND's got talent.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Think Tank: Half of Russians in London Are Spies

The neoconservative think tank Henry Jackson Society (HJS), based in London, has issued a new report entitled "Putin Sees and Hears It All: How Russia's Intelligence Agencies Menace the UK," which notes that up to a half on Russians living in London are spies.  Here are some of the findings:

  • Russia’s intelligence and security services are as much as 52 times the size of their British equivalents. 
  • There are up to five times the number of Russian case officers in the UK as there were in 2010.  These 200 ‘case officers’ are handling up to 500 agents. 
  • Out of an estimated population of 150,000 Russian ex-pats living in London, up to half are said to be FSB, GRU, or SVR informants – potentially, some 75,000 assets. 
  • As many as half of Russian Embassy diplomats are actively engaged in intelligence work, with as many – if not more – said to be working in Russia’s Trade Delegation.

Russia's Sputnik took aim at the report, calling it "ludicrous."

In 2017, The Times accused HJS of running an anti-China propaganda campaign after the Japanese embassy gave them a monthly fee of around $13,000.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Trump's Favorite Think Tank Trade Economist

President Donald Trump often cites a single source when talking about trade statistics: Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).  Now, Scott is saying that tariffs will not bring back lost jobs, a long-held belief of President Trump.  Here is more from Axios:

President Trump's trade war with China won't bring back the jobs lost from the trade deficit with China, according to Robert Scott, a senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, whose work Trump cited on the campaign trail and during his presidency.

Here is Scott's latest report on China, which was co-authored by Zane Mokhiber.

Here is what Robert Koopman, the chief economist at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has to say about EPI:

Monday, November 5, 2018

Think Tank Tweet of the Week: View of Think Tanks With Fresh Eyes

This is from Eli Lopez, Senior Editor for Global Opinions at the Washington Post:

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#333)

  • Did alleged Russian spy Maria Butina spy on US think tanks while at American University?
  • Heritage Foundation formally installs Barb Van Andel-Gaby as its new chairman of its Board of Trustees; names two new VPs: Thomas Binion and Andrew McIndoe.
  • Hudson Inst. becomes shadow gov't, hosting US-EU-Israel talks and India-US-Japan talks.
  • Russia's RT goes after AEI for free trade tweet. 
  • Chinese think tank (Charhar Institute) launches National Committee for China-US Relations.
  • Gov. Pete Ricketts (NE) disagrees with tax survey from think tank (Platte Inst.) he helped found.
  • Pic: Penn State visits CSIS.
  • Think tanks are in "The Box." 
  • Heritage Foundation scholars differ on approach to birthright citizenship.
  • Brookings hires Stephanie Aaronson, formerly with the US Federal Reserve Board, as VP & Director of its Economic Studies Program.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Fake Chinese Think Tank Accounts Used for Spy Efforts on French

This is from the Epoch Times:

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is trying to recruit or spy on thousands of French experts using fake LinkedIn accounts, according to Le Figaro.
Several hundred people have been compromised, the French paper reported.
Chinese agents targeted some 4,000 French individuals, including civil servants, scientists, high-level managers, and other influential figures, Le Figaro reported on Oct. 23. Of that figure, about 1,700 are employed or otherwise involved with national institutions.
The agents use fake LinkedIn accounts to present themselves as entrepreneurial representatives, think tank members, or consultants, who offer all-expenses-paid trips to China to the experts they are trying to recruit.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about Chinese think tankers being targeted by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Libertarian Think Tank Dumps Libertarianism

A libertarian think tank has decided it no longer needs libertarianism.

Here is more from Jerry Taylor, President of the Niskanen Center:

When we launched the Niskanen Center in January 2015, we happily identified ourselves as libertarians. Sure, we were heterodox libertarians, but there are many schools of libertarianism beyond those promoted by Charles Koch’s political operations. The school we identified with was a left-libertarianism concerned with social justice (a libertarian perspective that I’ve defended in debates with more orthodox libertarians here and here). That worldview lacked an institutional voice in 2015. Our ambition was to create a space for it and, in so doing, redefine what it meant to be libertarian in the 21st century.
I have abandoned that libertarian project, however, because I have come to abandon ideology. This essay is an invitation for you to do likewise — to walk out of the “clean and well-lit prison of one idea.” Ideology encourages dodgy reasoning due to what psychologists call “motivated cognition,” which is the act of deciding what you want to believe and using your reasoning power, with all its might, to get you there. Worse, it encourages fanaticism, disregard for social outcomes, and invites irresolvable philosophical disputes. It also threatens social pluralism — which is to say, it threatens freedom.

Here is what Quartz has to say about the Niskanen Center news.

Here is more about the launch of the Niskanen Center.