“Perception-management campaign”

A pair of Republican congressmen allege that a major environmental nonprofit appears to have been co-opted by China’s influence machine:

Environmental advocacy groups that take the Defense Department to court appear to operate as foreign agents working to help China and undermine the U.S. Navy and America’s military readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, congressional leaders suggest.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, called on two environmental groups to submit documents that “identify any policies or procedures” the groups took to ensure compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Bishop and Westerman last month wrote the two groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a letter to Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the two Republican lawmakers expressed concern about China’s “extensive perception-management campaign” and the “NRDC’s role” in assisting these efforts.

The environmental group’s press releases and other written correspondence “consistently praise the Chinese government’s environmental initiatives and promote the image of China as a global environmental leader,” their letter says. […]

The political activism of the Natural Resources Defense Council continues to coincide with China’s geopolitical interests, while it regularly files lawsuits against the Pentagon aimed at constraining military exercises vital to national security, Bishop and Westerman say in their letter to the NRDC.

The organization “collaborates with Chinese government entities deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law,” the two Republicans say. It also works to “discredit those skeptical of China’s commitment to pollution reduction targets” who seek to report honestly on environmental data, their letter says.

Quote from the letter: “Over the last two decades, your organization has also sued the U.S. Navy multiple times to stop or drastically limit naval training exercises in the Pacific arguing that navy sonar and anti-submarine warfare drills harm marine life. We are unaware of the NRDC having made similar efforts to curtail naval exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.”

Another take from the New York Times. At first glance, it seems more likely that the NRDC — like so many Western organizations — is simply forced to adopt a double standard because of the Chinese government’s unique sensitivity to criticism, than that the NRDC is part of some Chinese influence campaign. However, is there a functional difference between these two possibilities?

Whatever the reasons or motive, any group that attempts to clip the wings of the US Navy in the Pacific, while working closely and uncritically with the Chinese government as the latter builds and weaponizes thousands of acres of islands in the South China Sea, is rightly viewed with a considerable amount of suspicion by the US.

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