A year-long investigation conducted by Axios has found that a Chinese spy has infiltrated several Democrat campaigns so the Chinese Communist Party can influence U.S. politics. From 2011 to 2015, the spy, a woman named Fang Fang or Christine Fang, was part of a political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency, the Ministry of State Security.
Fang’s activities in the U.S began in 2011 when she enrolled at the California State University East Bay. She soon became president of two influential organizations on campus: the Chinese Student Association and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA). Using these positions, Fang slowly gained access to political and business circles, and participated in several fundraising campaigns. Some of the Bay Area politicians she came into contact with include Democrats Eric Swalwell, Ro Khanna, Tulsi Gabbard, Mike Honda, and Judy Chu.
According to U.S intelligence officials, Fang attended several regional conferences for mayors, allowing her to develop a wide network of politicians across the United States. During the course of a three year period, Fang is known to have engaged in sexual relations with two mayors from Midwestern cities. FBI electronic surveillance recorded two incidents of sexual interactions between Fang and the elected officials. Fang’s alleged objective was to gather political intelligence and to influence rising officials. This would enable Beijing the opportunity to sway key elected U.S. officials in China-related issues.
In June 2015, Fang was scheduled to attend an event in Washington. But she abruptly changed plans and departed to China for an “emergency.” Fang has yet to return to the U.S. and has cut off contact with the acquaintances she had developed relationships with over the four years of her activity.
During her years spying in the U.S., her most significant target is believed to be California’s House Representative Eric Swalwell. Fang participated in Swalwell’s 2014 re-election fundraising campaign. She succeeded in placing one intern in Swalwell’s office. With the relationship between Swalwell and Fang becoming public, other U.S. politicians have demanded that the congressman be removed from the House Intelligence Committee.
“Eric Swalwell has no place on the House Intelligence Committee. His reported ties to a Chinese spy backed by the Communist Party of China are shocking and show just how far President Xi is willing to go to gain access to critical U.S. intelligence. Swalwell spent years promoting Russian disinformation in an effort to take down the President, when in fact he was being used as a pawn by the Chinese government, which we know is doing everything in their power to expand their influence,” Senator Rick Scott said in a statement.
Targeting the Bay Area
China has several significant reasons to manipulate politicians in the Bay Area in California. Firstly, it is home to Silicon Valley, the world’s foremost technology hub. Spies locate there to steal U.S. intellectual property and other critical tech secrets. Russia, for example, has a long history of targeting the Bay Area.
With China’s rapid economic and military growth over the past decades, the communist nation has also initiated espionage operations in the region. In June of this year, a 41-year-old Chinese citizen named Hao Zhang was arrested for stealing performance-related information on wireless devices. John F. Bennett, the FBI special agent in charge, had warned Silicon Valley companies of such threats.
“Economic Espionage is a pervasive threat throughout the United States, particularly to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, which is the center of innovation and technology… While this case exemplifies how easily a few motivated employees can conspire to misappropriate intellectual property for the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party, Zhang’s conviction should serve as a warning to our adversaries,” he said in a statement.
Some of the most powerful politicians in the U.S. started their political careers in the Bay Area. That’s why China’s Ministry of State Security has a dedicated unit to influence operations in California. Since Democrats usually dominate the Bay Area, it is no mystery why foreign spies have infiltrated the Democratic Party.