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Oct. 13, 2022
Notes from the Pentagon

Billionaire with links to cash payments to Hunter Biden involved in Chinese covert ops against U.S.

By Bill Gertz
Chinese billionaire Ye Jianming, who has been linked to large cash payments to President Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the Biden family, worked for a unit of the People’s Liberation Army involved in covert influence operations against the United States.

Mr. Ye, former chairman of the now-defunct CEFC China Energy Co. Ltd., has been held in China on bribery charges since 2018.

Documents and emails obtained from the younger Mr. Biden’s laptop provide details on payments from Mr. Ye and his company to the Biden family. The activities are reportedly the subject of a federal investigation.

Two studies of Chinese influence operations identified Mr. Ye as part of a special information warfare unit of the PLA called “Base 311.” The unit is engaged in what Beijing calls the “three warfares” — public opinion warfare, psychological warfare and legal warfare.

The younger Mr. Biden, who worked for a U.S. investment firm, met with Mr. Ye and CEFC Executive Director Jianjun Zang in December 2015, and two years later was offered $10 million a year for arranging “introductions,” according to emails contained in Hunter Biden’s laptop left at a Delaware computer repair shop.

The deal included a gift to Hunter Biden of a 3-carat diamond worth $80,000, one document shows.

According to the publication “Chinese Influence Operations — A Machiavellian Moment,” by Paul Charon and Jean-Baptiste Jeangene Vilmer, Mr. Ye founded a front used by Base 311 called the Huaxing Training Center in Fujian, near the Chinese coast across from Taiwan. The authors are with the Institute for Strategic Research that is part of the French Ministry for the Armed Forces.

The Huaxing Training Center was set up by a Chinese think tank called the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), funded by Mr. Ye’s oil conglomerate, CEFC China Energy Co. Ltd.

The think tank “was identified as a platform for political warfare, affiliated to the former General Political Department. Its links to the PLA and the Party have been well documented,” the authors state.

Base 311, which operates behind a facade of several civilian companies, is now part of the PLA‘s Strategic Support Force, which conducts information warfare, cyber and military space operations.

Mark Stokes, a former Air Force military attache in China, also reported on Mr. Ye’s links to the Chinese military in his study of the PLA General Staff Department Unit 61398. He described the Chinese Energy Fund Committee as a PLA “political warfare platform … and [part of] the [Chinese Communist Party’s] propaganda and ideology system.”

In the 2015 report, Mr. Stokes also disclosed that the China Energy Fund Committee and Mr. Ye were linked to a PLA front group known as the Shanghai Association for International Friendly Contact, which he called a “major Shanghai-based influence operations platform.”

“CEFC chairman Ye Jianming also served as SAIFC deputy secretary general in the 2005 time frame,” said Mr. Stokes, now with the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank.

Base 311 has been in charge of political warfare operations since 2011 and has been linked to Chinese efforts to meddle in Taiwan’s 2018 election.

“It also appeared that Base 311 conducts research on the informational environment in the United States,” Mr. Charon and Mr. Jeangene Vilmer wrote. “Affiliated researchers have published reports on the U.S., notably on the potential effects of legislation passed to fight propaganda, the role of social media in American political life, such as their impact on the political polarization, and so on.”

Mr. Ye also influenced the Czech Republic government’s policies toward China after he was hired in 2015 as an adviser to then-President Milos Zeman. Before Mr. Zeman’s election, the Czech government criticized Chinese human rights abuses and supported the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

“Under President Zeman, the Czech foreign minister apologized for the previous government’s meetings with the Dalai Lama, and President Zeman said in Beijing that he had not come to ‘teach market economy or human rights,’” the 2018 annual report of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated.

Mr. Zeman also backed some of Beijing‘s highest-profile initiatives, and was the only Western leader to attend China‘s major military parade in 2015. He also praised China‘s Belt and Road Initiative, calling it the “most fascinating project of modern history,” the report said.

China‘s ‘effective control’ doctrine in war, crises
A new study by the Air Force China Aerospace Studies Institute says the Chinese military concept of “effective control” now guides military leaders’ thinking on war and crises. Deterring a conflict with China will require a deep understanding how the concept of effective control will be used by the People’s Liberation Army in a war, the study concludes.

For the PLA, effective control is used in peacetime as well as during crises and war.

“During peacetime, China‘s ability to ‘establish posture’ will continue to grow as China increases its capabilities and expands its national interests outward,” the report said. “China will also be able to shape its strategic environment through increasingly diverse means, including economic leverage, political influence, media discourse control, security cooperation, military infrastructure construction, military deterrence, cyber and intelligence operations and psychological and legal warfare.”

The PLA is using military activities and influence operations specifically in the campaign to retake control of Taiwan. The approach is described as “attacking with the pen and preparing the sword.”

Large-scale naval, air force and military exercises around Taiwan seek to prepare the PLA for war while undermining what Beijing regards as pro-independence activities and growing ties between Taipei and the United States.

The report warns that despite similarities to Western military approaches to managing escalation, the Chinese strategy is “dangerously opportunistic,” calling for “seizing opportunities” and “taking advantage of crises.”

The report’s authors warn that “this is potentially dangerous and at odds with the goal of preventing escalation: If China miscalculates, its opportunism can lead to conflicts spiraling out of control.”

China‘s large military buildup is part of the doctrine of effective control, even though preparing for conflict has alarmed other states and triggered multiple international crises, the report said.

The PLA‘s doctrine for controlling conflicts — beyond crisis control — is described in the report as “very cautious.”

The approach also calls for China to avoid war whenever possible, to be completely prepared and assured of victory before entering a war, and to “seize the initiative and minimize both cost and duration of the war when war is unavoidable,” the report concludes.

China also is preparing for “informationized” warfare in the future. That requires conflict to be waged in multiple domains, in coordination with nonmilitary forces, and using information technology in every area.

“The nature of informationized local wars greatly increases both the importance and the range of means of effectively controlling the war situation in China‘s favor, while also disrupting the enemy’s control of the war situation through multidomain strikes of critical nodes,” the report said.

The concept is part of the PLA‘s authoritative publication The Science of Military Strategy.

Satellite shoot-down in 2008 seen as threat by China, Russia
The U.S. military operation in 2008 to shoot down a falling satellite with a missile is viewed by China and Russia as a sign of the U.S. militarization of space, according to a report made public this week by the Rand Corp. think tank.

Both Beijing and Moscow have developed numerous space attack capabilities and lead the United States in developing space arms.

Operation Burnt Frost, staged in 2008, involved a specially modified SM-3 missile interceptor fired from the USS Lake Erie to destroy a non-functioning satellite that was tumbling toward Earth with a cargo of 1,000 pounds of hazardous propellant that was expected to survive reentry. The SM-3 blew up the satellite and the propellant without creating any space debris.

But the operation was taken as a cautionary tale in Beijing and Moscow. “Operation Burnt Frost is generally perceived in China as yet another example of U.S. militarization of space and, specifically, as demonstrating a kinetic counterspace capability,” the report said.

Chinese military writings have not widely discussed the operation.

The shoot-down reinforced China‘s perspective that U.S. missile defenses could be used for offensive attacks.

A year earlier, China conducted the infamous anti-satellite missile test that left tens of thousands of debris pieces floating in space after destroying a weather satellite.

Russia described Operation Burnt Frost as an example of American aggressiveness and desire to militarize space. One state-run media report in 2008 claimed the operation was an excuse for testing anti-satellite weapons.

Russian narratives about the operation have faded since 2008 and were replaced by Moscow’s propaganda claiming threats posed by the X-37B space plane, and the creation of the U.S. Space Force, which Russia opposes.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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