The controversy around the recent push by China to US executives, companies, and business groups to oppose China-related bills in the US Congress is nothing new. Chinese lobbying in the US and American suspicions towards it have haunted political and public life since at least 1947, when Chinese influence behind a “China lobby” (Ross Y. Koen) formed a premier charge of McCarthyism. Then depicted as a threat to the integrity of the US decision-making process, the very idea of Chinese overseas lobbying has regularly provoked politicization while focusing on isolated incidents in the past and present.
By contrast, this conference analyzes Chinese lobbying as more complex than a malign activity, an expression of foreign manipulation, interference, or meddling in foreign political decisions. Instead, we seek to explain the long emergence of Chinese lobbying in the US by asking a) to which extent Chinese lobbying in the United States was conditioned by Chinese politics at home, b) what were the characteristic themes, methods, and goals of Chinese lobbying, and c) why it became a key feature of China’s bilateral relations with the US, Australia, the United Nations and other global relationships.
Distinct from Koen’s “loss of China” paradigm, this conference debates the full scope of Chinese lobbying in the US, including PRC-US relations, ROC-US relations and the changing diplomatic-corporate complex. It conceptualizes Chinese lobbying in the US as a practice in its own right and beyond official diplomacy, which merits multidisciplinary study because of its longevity. Irregular channels of lobbying can be divided into political, cultural, and economic variations of the practice. Together, they showcase the unique dynamics of Chinese overseas lobbying in the US and at the UN across the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
This conference will bring historians, political scientists, anthropologists, legal scholars and business analysts into a multidisciplinary conversation to offer a more comprehensive and more nuanced understanding of US-China relations, past and present.
We plan to publish an edited volume entitled “Chinese Lobbying Practices: Chinese, American and Global Perspectives, 1931-2022.” The book will be the first book that addresses in a systematic and interdisciplinary way Chinese lobbying in the US. It will constitute a valuable source of reference for scholars of China and US policymakers that wants to have a better understanding of Chinese lobbying in the US from a historical perspective.
The event is sponsored by the WEAI and the China and the World Program, Columbia University.