Congressional Republicans Slam Carter Center's China Ties

Ex-president's think tank partnered with CCP influence arm

Former President Jimmy Carter / Getty Images
February 24, 2021

Congressional Republicans are demanding answers from the Carter Center for its collaboration with Chinese government-backed entities as part of a wider effort to crack down on Chinese influence-peddling efforts in the United States.

Rep. Jody Hice (R., Ga.) and three other Georgia Republicans criticized the Carter Center for cohosting events with entities backed by the United Front, the Chinese Communist Party's foreign influence arm, in a Wednesday letter. The Atlanta-based think tank was founded by its namesake, former president Jimmy Carter.

"The United Front is an organization which is deeply hostile to any idea contrary to Communism.… We are deeply troubled that the United Front continues to be given a platform to spread its propaganda in the United States," the letter reads. 

The letter's publication coincides with a renewed push from other congressional Republicans to restrict China's activities in the United States. Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) introduced legislation that will severely restrict the United Front and other CCP-linked influence groups in the United States.

"The Chinese Communist Party expands its disinformation campaign each day," Cotton told the Washington Free Beacon. "The United Front Work Department is just another venue for the CCP to spread its propaganda and to co-opt foreign groups to toe the CCP line. We must put an end to their tactics."

Chinese government-backed entities have spent large sums of money to peddle pro-Beijing propaganda across the world. The United Front and other China-backed groups have a long history of targeting think tanks such as the Carter Center to disseminate pro-China propaganda.

The China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a nonprofit group backed by the United Front, has channeled millions of dollars to famed U.S. think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, Center for American Progress, and the Atlantic Council. The Carter Center received more than $100,000 from the foundation in 2019 alone, according to its most recent annual report.

The letter criticized the Carter Center for cohosting an event with the U.S. Heartland China Association—another United Front group with links to CUSEF—that featured a moderator who works for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The legislators also took issue with another event that the Atlanta-based think tank cohosted with a group with links to the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-backed group that disseminated pro-Beijing propaganda in more than 100 American colleges and universities.

"The Chinese Communist Party will do anything possible to manipulate world opinion by pushing their misleading propaganda and aggressive disinformation," Hice said. "This is even happening in our backyard."

The Banks-Cotton bill aims to decisively end the Chinese propaganda effort by imposing economic sanctions on the United Front. The legislation will also ban United Front members from entering the United States. 

Banks said Republicans must continue to hold China accountable even if the new White House is inclined to pursue a more conciliatory approach to the authoritarian country. 

"The leadership in Washington may have changed, but China’s political warfare hasn’t. It’s fallen to Congress to expose and counter Communist Party disinformation. We can’t back down now," Banks said.