Fang Fang or Christine Fang, a Chinese national, is believed to have targeted rising politicians in California’s Bay Area and other cities as part of a Chinese intelligence operation, according to an investigation by news site Axios. From 2011–2015, she cultivated personal relationships with politicians that had the potential to rise to powerful positions in American politics, for instance, she was involved in the campaign of Congressman Eric Swalwell back when he was just councilmember for Dublin City, California. A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe revealed that Fang was connected to an undercover intelligence officer from China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), the country’s top intelligence agency.
Why is China targeting American politicians?
- Beijing may try to influence foreign policy issues directly related to China by establishing close relationships between elected U.S officials and Chinese agents.
- Beijing can influence local issue in the U.S as well, such as partnering with Chinese companies for local investment. This type of investment often falls under the purview of local elected officials like mayors and councilmembers etc.
Why is California’s Bay Area heavily targeted by China?
- Some of the most important and powerful politicians in America rose from the Bay Area.
- Silicon Valley, based in this area, is the world’s most important center for the information technology industry.
- California’s economy is the largest of all the U.S. states, thereby giving lawmakers from the state great influence over national politics.
- The Bay Area is home to a large number of of the Chinese diaspora, Beijing wants to influence this community to become more predisposed to the regime, as well as surveil and stamp out potential organized opposition to the Communist Party back in China.
How did Fang operate?
- She was enrolled as a student at California State University East Bay, in 2011. She served as president of the school’s Chinese Student Association, and president of the campus chapter of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA), a national organization that encourages Asian Americans to get involved in civic affairs. She used those positions to gain access to political circles.
- Political figures, business executives, and Chinese consular officials were invited to attend the high-profile events she organized for the aforementioned organisations over a period of several years.
- After college she became a political fundraiser for political candidates.
- Fang “was a bundler”, according to U.S intelligence officials. Bundlers persuade others to write checks for campaigns; they help bring in large amounts of money as well as deepen the campaign’s engagement with target communities.
- Fang attended conferences for mayors around the U.S, and started sexual or romantic relationships with at least two mayors of Midwestern cities, according to U.S intelligence officials.
Fang left the U.S in 2015, amidst the FBI probe into Chinese intelligence operations in America. As per statements by U.S intelligence officials, she has not returned to the U.S since, and has cut ties with the politicians and friends she spent years building connections with.