Feb 15, 2022 - World

New book casts Henry Kissinger as "agent of Chinese influence"

Book cover image for "America Second" by Isaac Stone Fish

Image: Knopf

U.S. elites have used ties to China to grow rich — and by doing so, they have helped Beijing grow more powerful, a new book argues.

Why it matters: Curbing the Chinese Communist Party's political influence in the U.S. and abroad requires closer scrutiny of how elites in democratic countries behave.

Instead of supporting free speech and democratic principles, many U.S. institutions now bend over backwards to please Beijing, Isaac Stone Fish, founder and CEO of consulting firm Strategy Risks, writes in "America Second: How America's Elites Are Making China Stronger."

  • "The arc of the moral universe remains long, but now it bends toward accommodation," Stone Fish writes.
  • This accommodation is the result of some of America's most famous and powerful people being enmeshed in profound conflicts of interest in their dealings with Beijing.

Details: Stone Fish carefully chronicles these conflicts of interest, starting with former national security adviser and secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

  • Kissinger's decades-long career as a consultant and private power broker between U.S. companies and Chinese government officials turned the renowned statesman into what is best described as "an agent of Chinese influence," Stone Fish writes.
  • To help companies gain greater access to China's markets, Kissinger worked behind the scenes to push for better U.S. relations with China, which often meant the U.S. relaxed its demands for improved human rights commitments and other basic standards.
  • A Kissinger representative did not respond to an Axios request for comment.

Stone Fish also tackles Grindr, Boeing, Hollywood and U.S. universities — and emphasizes that racism and xenophobia against Chinese Americans is not only wrong but also counterproductive in the struggle to contain Beijing's influence.

The big picture: The book includes a sweeping look at America's historical influence on China over the past 200 years, from American Christian missionaries to U.S.-trained democratic reformers like Sun Yat-sen and U.S. support for the Republic of China during World War II.

  • “I want people to understand that influence can and does go both ways. The U.S. has huge influence over China. I wanted to counter the argument that nothing we do works," Stone Fish told Axios in an interview.

The bottom line: U.S. elites have strengthened Beijing's ability to get its way on the global stage "by amplifying positive information about China and suppressing negative information," Stone Fish told Axios.

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