Here is a clip from Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, a China reporter for Axios:
A person on LinkedIn claiming to work for a think tank run by a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party department recently offered financial compensation for the names of my sources and for reports about the incoming Biden's administration's views on China.
Why it matters: It was a surprisingly clumsy attempt to gain insider information about the U.S. government's China policy, suggesting that amid a chill in U.S.-China relations and a global pandemic, it's gotten harder for people in Beijing to know what's happening in Washington.
Details: A couple of weeks ago, someone named Aaron Shen (沈岳 in Chinese) sent me a request to connect on LinkedIn. I accepted after I saw he claimed to be the assistant director of international liaison at the China Center for Contemporary World Studies — the in-house think tank of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee (IDCPC).
Here is more about the China Center for Contemporary World Studies (CCCWS), which was founded in 2010. CCCWS serves as the secretariat of the Silk Road Think Tank Association (SRTA), a grouping that provides support for China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). SRTA held a major conference on Dec. 16.
Establishing fake think tanks and fake think tankers has become very popular in recent years. Here is an example of a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) flagging a fake think tanker. Here is previous Think Tank Watch piece on the new trend of deepfake think tank scholars.
Here is a recent piece on a pro-India disinformation campaign that resurrected "dead" think tanks in order to target the European Union and United Nations.
Here is Wired's piece on China's 5 steps for recruiting spies.