How China Is Controlling Politicians In Utah

According to an investigation by The Associated Press, China is exerting control over politicians in Utah.

China’s global campaign to win friends and influence policy has blossomed in a surprising place: Utah, a deeply religious and conservative state with few obvious ties to the world’s most powerful communist country.

An investigation by The Associated Press has found that China and its U.S.-based advocates spent years building relationships with the state’s officials and lawmakers. Those efforts have paid dividends at home and abroad, the AP found: Lawmakers delayed legislation Beijing didn’t like, nixed resolutions that conveyed displeasure with its actions and expressed support in ways that enhanced the Chinese government’s image.

Its work in Utah is emblematic of a broader effort by Beijing to secure allies at the local level as its relations with the U.S. and its western allies have turned acrimonious. U.S. officials say local leaders are at risk of being manipulated by China and have deemed the influence campaign a threat to national security.

Beijing’s success in Utah shows “how pervasive and persistent China has been in trying to influence America,” said Frank Montoya Jr., a retired FBI counterintelligence agent who lives in Utah.

“Utah is an important foothold,” he said. “If the Chinese can succeed in Salt Lake City, they can also make it in New York and elsewhere.”

Security experts say that China’s campaign is widespread and tailored to local communities. In Utah, the AP found, Beijing and pro-China advocates appealed to lawmakers’ affiliations with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormon church, which is the state’s dominant religion and one that has long dreamed of expanding in China.

Beijing’s campaign in Utah has raised concerns among state and federal lawmakers and drawn the attention of the Justice Department.

A state legislator told the AP he was interviewed by the FBI after introducing a resolution in 2020 expressing solidarity with China early in the coronavirus pandemic. A Utah professor who has advocated for closer ties between Washington and Beijing told the AP he’s been questioned by the FBI twice. The FBI declined to comment.

According to an investigation by The Associated Press, China is exerting control over politicians in Utah.

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