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Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A group of leading China specialists and students of one-party systems under the auspices of the Hoover Institution and the Center on U.S.-China Relations of the Asia Society have issued a long report titled Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance.

Between the lines: The report is interesting, balanced, timely and has some good ideas about how to deal with the threats — but it is a mistake to talk about “Chinese influence” when the issue is Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence and interference operations. Just saying "Chinese" is a dangerous conflation that can spark anti-Chinese sentiment. To paraphrase Confucius, names matter.

The big picture: The report comes at a time when many Western governments, led by Australia, are waking up to the activities of the CCP inside their countries.

John Garnaut, a participant in today's report and one of the leading forces behind Australia's awakening, told me:

  • The great significance of this report is that it shows how the China-watching community has turned.
  • The experts across the United States and further afield who came together to write this report are by no means China hawks. This group has been leading the engagement effort over many decades. These are people who share a great commitment to China and its people, without exception.
  • But gradually, and reluctantly, they have accepted — we have had to accept — that China under General Secretary Xi Jinping is materially different to the China we knew under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
  • The liberalizing forces of civil society and market economics are not prevailing. The possibilities for reform have narrowed, and they have been pushed further over the horizon, and the risks to our own open societies have grown.
  • So the policy of engagement has to be coupled with a commitment to managing risk. 

Why it matters: The threats from CCP influence and interference are real, but it is important the U.S. take a measured, targeted approach against "covert, coercive or corrupting" methods while avoiding channeling Base Commander Jack Ripper's classic quote in Dr. Strangelove:

"I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."

Go deeper:

  • Read the full report here.
  • Fearing espionage, U.S. weighs tighter rules on Chinese students, via Reuters
  • How WeChat helped a Chinese American immigrant win a seat in the Maryland statehouse, via The Washington Post

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”