A Case Study: The Chinese Communist Party Works to Influence Oregon

A Case Study: The Chinese Communist Party Works to Influence Oregon

In 2010 Oregon's state legislature resolved to encourage Confucius Classrooms


September 28, 2018 Updated: September 28, 2018

An Oregon resident recently found out, much to her dismay, that a piece of Oregon state legislation that encouraged the establishment of Confucius Classrooms could have been pushed through by the long arm of the Chinese Communist Party. She believes the CCP’s penetration in Oregon is much deeper than people had imagined or been aware of.

An Unexpected Email

It all started with an unexpected email.

When an American Chinese in Oregon, who prefers to be referred to as Ms. M, received an invitation from an unknown source to an event in downtown Portland on Sept. 17, to “welcome China’s new consul general Wang Donghua to Oregon,” she was very much surprised for two reasons.

First, although she is of Chinese ethnicity, she has not been involved in any China-related events, or dealt with any people in the Chinese community, for decades. She was surprised that such an invitation could actually reach her.

Secondly, the wording and implication of the invitation made her uneasy. One of the sentences says, “With U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to implement $200 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese goods, the people of our two countries face a major escalation in trade tensions.”

She is very much aware that Oregon is an agricultural state, and China is Oregon’s largest export market. If the new Chinese Consul General wanted to work people up to go against President Trump’s trade policy, he could have a bigger audience in Oregon.

What worried her further was that the midterm elections are close, and that she had heard from news reports, which was further confirmed by President Trump’s tweet, that “China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers.”

For her, the invitation sent to “Dear Friends of Oregon China Efforts,” and which says, “If you export to China, import from China, invest in China or engage in people to people exchanges with China, this is the event to attend,” was enough to make her worry that the new Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco would not only be inciting the local business community to oppose President Trump’s trade policy, but also try to influence the election.

Lan Jin: a ‘Volunteer’ or a ‘Foreign Agent’?

So she did some research about the host organization of the event, Oregon China Sister State Relations Council (OCSSRC), and found the following:

  1. The president of OCSSRC is a very high profile Chinese called Lan Jin, who is also the principal of a business consultant company called Octaxias.  Although the company boasts about having “also helped thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs access the Chinese markets,” no names of business clients are ever mentioned.

As a matter of fact, what are listed on the company’s “Latest News”  page are all big names in politics, such as “Iowa Governor and US Ambassador,” “Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek,” “Vice Premier Liu Yandong [of China], and so on.

Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping (R) and Vice Premier Liu Yandong (L) arrive at the opening ceremony of the 6th China-U.S. Security and Economic Dialogue and 5th round of China-U.S. High Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange at Diaoyutai State Guest House on July 9, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping (R) and Vice Premier Liu Yandong (L) arrive at the opening ceremony of the 6th China-U.S. Security and Economic Dialogue and 5th round of China-U.S. High Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange at Diaoyutai State Guest House on July 9, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

2. Further search with Lan’s Chinese name led to numerous reports in Chinese, notably, at the website of People’s Daily, the CCP’s most important propaganda outlet.

One report portrays Lan as a “legend” in the business community, and says:

“Lan Jin has two business cards. One of them has his title as ‘The principal of Octaxias Company in the United States,’ whilst his title on another card is ‘Overseas Observer-Representative of the First Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), President of Oregon China Sister State Relations Council.’ For the latter, Lan Jin said it was a ‘volunteer’ role.”

China’s propaganda machine refers to CPPCC as “an organization of the patriotic United Front of the Chinese people.” According to China expert Xia Yiyang, the CPPCC was established before the People’s Republic of China. Its initial mission was to give the CCP the legitimacy to govern the country. After the National People’s Congress was established, the CPPCC lost its function and was regarded as a “flower vase” by many.

However, the CPPCC is not a completely useless “flower vase” as understood by the outside world. Its main function remains to carry out “United Front” work for the CCP. Its role is still very important, and that’s why the chairperson of CPPCC has to be a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CCP’s Central Committee, the highest ranking CCP leaders.

A recent U. S. government report, “China’s Overseas United Front Work- Background and Implications for the United States,” defines the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) as “the agency responsible for coordinating these kinds of influence operations—mostly focuses on the management of potential opposition groups inside China, but it also has an important foreign influence mission.”

The report gives reference to Liu Yandong multiple times as “Council of Confucius Institute Headquarters Chair; former State Council Vice-Premiere; former Politburo Standing Committee Member; former UFWD Minister.”

At the Home page of OCSSRC, a photo of Lan Jin and a smiling Liu Yandong is featured as a lead photo, coupled with another one featuring Lan Jin introducing Oregon Senator Bill Hansell to Liu Yandong at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese Communist Party’s central compound, during the Oregon Legislative Trade Mission to China in October, 2015.

On his company website, Lan Jin lists the following as one of his main achievements:

“In 2011, Jin Lan facilitated the Honorable Mme Liu Yandong, the State Councilor of China, to visit Oregon. She is the highest Chinese official ever to visit State of Oregon in history.”

Xia said that from what he knows about China through his decades-long China study, two things are certain. If Lan Jin could facilitate as high profile a figure as Liu Yandong to visit Oregon, he must either have a very close personal relationship with Liu, or be a core member of CCP’s UFWD.

A screenshot of the website of Oregon China Sister State Relations Council featuring Lan Jin introducing Oregon Senator Bill Hansell to Liu Yandong at Zhongnanhai, China’s central government compound, during Oregon Legislative Trade Mission to China in October, 2015. (Screenshot/ Oregon China Sister State Relations Council)

A screenshot of the website of Oregon China Sister State Relations Council featuring Lan Jin introducing Oregon Senator Bill Hansell to Liu Yandong at Zhongnanhai, China’s central government compound, during Oregon Legislative Trade Mission to China in October, 2015. (Screenshot/ Oregon China Sister State Relations Council)

Being able to be so close to Liu was an opportunity that many overseas Chinese community leaders would fight for. Not everyone could easily get it.

Another sure thing is, if someone is involved with the national level of CPPCC, he must be either a key member of CCP’s UFWD, or an important person that the UFWD wants to win over.

Given Lan Jin’s background and situation, he should belong to the former group, according to Xia.

Lan was born in China in 1960’s. He graduated from Beijing Institute of Foreign Trade (now the University of International Business & Economics) in 1983. After that he came to the United States to study at Portland State University and received a B.S. degree.

According to the People’s Daily article, ever since the 1990’s, Lan has been traveling back to China at a frequency of every two months. He started his own business in 1996, and has been “bridging the gaps” between the United States and China.

According to Lan’s company website, he has “helped arrange for President and Mrs. Bush’s trip to the Great Wall Of China,” “facilitated Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s 2008 successful visit to China; Oregon Speaker Dave Hunt’s 2009 visit to China; Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s 2011 visit to China; and Oregon Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna’s 2011 visit to China, Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan’s 2012 trip to China and Speaker Tina Kotek’s 2014 Legislative Mission to China,” alongside many other things.

Lan’s other title is president of OCSSRC, which he said is only a “volunteering” role.

For Ms. M, Lan looks more like a full-time agent working for the CCP. People like him, she said, should be registered as a “foreign agent” to reflect their true status, just like the CCP’s media mouthpieces, Xinhua and China Global Television Network, which were recently ordered by the U. S. Justice Department to be registered as foreign agents.

Oregon State Legislation Promotes Confucius Classrooms

Another People’s Daily report on Nov. 19, 2015 entitled “U.S. Oregon Politicians Discuss How to Enhance Relations with China” has the paragraph:

“According to Lan Jin’s introduction, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon passed legislation in 2010 to have public schools in Oregon set up Chinese-language courses and Confucius Classrooms to promote Chinese language study. This was the first in the United States, or even in all the English-speaking countries globally. This initiative was first introduced to the Legislative Assembly by the Joint Committee on Fujian Sister State. ”

Screenshot of People’s Daily’s exclusive interview with Lan Jin, who describes the Oregon legislation about Confucius Classrooms as one of the two “unique measures” by Oregon. (Screenshot/People’s Daily)

Screenshot of People’s Daily’s exclusive interview with Lan Jin, who describes the Oregon legislation about Confucius Classrooms as one of the two “unique measures” by Oregon. (Screenshot/People’s Daily)

Another exclusive interview with Lan Jin by the People’s Daily quotes Lan Jin as saying, “The Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon has adopted two unique measures in the United States. One is that it passed a state law in 2010 to have public schools set up Chinese-language courses and Confucius Classrooms. Another is that it passed state legislation in 2006 to establish sister-state relationship with China.”

Confucius Institutes operate in colleges and universities; Confucius Classrooms operate in grammar and high schools. Both are part of the same initiative.

According to an August 2018 report by U.S.-China Economic Review Commission:

“Confucius Institutes are CCP-sponsored education organizations that teach Chinese language, culture, and history at the primary, secondary, and university level around the world. However, they also advance Beijing’s preferred narrative and subvert important academic principles such as institutional autonomy and academic freedom. Significantly, Confucius Institutes are funded by the CCP Propaganda Department—formally affiliated with the UFWD—and are also overseen by personnel based in Chinese embassies and consulates, according to Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The Confucius Institute program has longstanding and formal ties to the UFWD, as Liu Yandong—a former Chinese vice-premier and Politburo member—was the head of the UFWD when she launched the program in 2004.”

The public record shows that Lan Jin was listed as a member and the “Executive Director” of the Joint Committee on Fujian Sister State, which takes the credit for pushing the legislation to introduce Confucius Classrooms into Oregon’s public school.

According to Dennis Richardson, the current Secretary of State of Oregon, and a former representative and a member of the Joint Committee on Fujian Sister State, this committee “was established and members chosen as specified by Section 3 of HB 2066 (2007).

According to this Act, the Sister State Committee may consist of not more than 21 members, including a co-chairperson appointed  by  the  President  of  the  Senate from  among  the  members  of  the  Senate, a co-chairperson appointed  by  the  Speaker  of  the House  of Representatives  from  among  the  members  of  the  House  of  Representatives, two  members  of  the  Senate  who  are  not  members  of  the  same political  party,  appointed  by  the  President  of  the  Senate, two  members  of  the  House  of  Representatives  who  are  not  members  of  the same political  party,  appointed  by  the  Speaker  of  the  House  of  Representatives,  and additional  members  selected  according to  criteria  established  by  the  committee  and appointed  jointly  by  the  President  of  the  Senate  and  the  Speaker  of  the House  of  Representatives.

The 2009 Regular Session of Joint Committee On Fujian Sister State has 18 members. Apart from two co-chairpersons, two senators and two House representatives, there are 12 “additional members.” 7 out of the 12 members have a Chinese surname, and Lan Jin is listed as the Executive Director.

Richardson declined to comment or give information about Lan Jin’s role and responsibilities in the committee as the executive director, and asked The Epoch Times to “talk directly with Mr. Lan regarding any questions about his participation and activities.”

The Epoch Times did manage to reach Lan Jin via his phone. However, as soon as he heard the call was from The Epoch Times, he immediately hung up without giving the reporter any chance to ask any questions.

Senator Betsy Johnson, one of the two lawmakers of the Joint Committee on Fujian Sister State who are still in office, confirmed to The Epoch Times that Dennis Richardson who the main one who had worked hard, and traveled to Fujian many times, to push things forward.

Johnson said she had resigned from the committee later, to give place to others who were eager to join in, and who could put more energy into the Committee’s work.

Johnson could not recall who was responsible for the selection of the “additional” members of the joint committee; nor did she remember whether she had resigned before or after the legislation about Confucius Classrooms was passed; nor could she remember clearly situations surrounding the passage of the legislation. She only had very “shallow” and “vague” memory about the legislation, as it was 8 years ago.

A Voice of America report in 2010 discusses briefly the controversy surrounding the funding source of Confucius Classrooms in Oregon, and puts this as the caption for the photo of Richardson in the report:

“Dennis Richardson (right) hopes to convince other lawmakers that the Confucius classroom program offers a way to make Mandarin language lessons more widely available in state schools.”

Another paragraph says, “Richardson is among several Oregon lawmakers who have been pushing their colleagues to fund more Chinese-language education in Oregon’s public schools. While a handful of districts do offer it, efforts to expand the classes have fallen flat in the legislature, in part due to concerns over cost.”

At the “about us” page of OCSSRC’s website, the following are listed among the OCSSRC’s “milestones”:

“The first Confucius classroom in North or South America established in Medford, Oregon at St. Mary High School in 2008.

“Oregon was the first state in the U. S. to pass legislation to expand Mandarin education in all public schools (2010).”

With these “first” statuses, dozens of Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms sprang up in Oregon. Portland State University alone has 36 affiliated Confucius Classrooms.

On April 15, 2011, about one year after the passage of the Oregon legislation about Confucius Classrooms, Liu Yandong was invited to Portland to unveil the plaque for 12 Confucius Classrooms in Oregon. On that day alone, 12 Confucius Classrooms were introduced into Oregon schools. This piece of news was published by Hanban, the governing body of Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms, as one of its many achievements.

Although Confucius Institutes are now widely recognized by many Americans as the CCP’s “soft power” machine, and the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act bars the Pentagon from funding Confucius Institutes, local Americans are “uninformed or under-informed and somewhat naive,” according to Ms. M.

When she called a local elementary school and made inquiries about the Confucius Classrooms, the clerk had “absolutely no idea about how the program was run or funded,” she said. “I told her that I saw Mao’s quotation (in Chinese) hanging in Chinese-language classrooms. That is like someone hanging Hitler’s quotation in a German classroom.”

What alarms Ms. M further is the fact that such a law so obviously backed and pushed by the CCP could be “quietly” passed in the state legislature. In other words, how deeply has the CCP been influencing American laws and politics in a broader spectrum?

If people like Lan Jin are allowed to have a say in the process of forming new legislation, isn’t that a loophole in our legislative system?

Another fact that saddens Ms. M is, although she is a local resident for many years, she knew nothing at all about such a law, nor any English reports about the passage of the legislation could be found anywhere when she searched for them, except at Hanban’s and the Chinese Embassy’s websites, which triumphantly posted the news as their achievements.

Oregon Secretary of State’s Trip to China: Partly Paid by CCP

Digging further, Ms. M found more alarming information awaiting her.

Browsing OCSSRC’s website gave her a feeling that this is a completely “Chinese” site, although the language is in English. When she clicked the “news” button, what came up on top were reports from Xinhua. Clicking on the “OCSSRC in China” button mostly brought up Chinese-language reports from People’s Daily and Xinhua.

Another “milestone” at the “about us” page of OCSSRC’s website goes like this: “Since 2002 Oregon has sent annual legislative trade missions.”

It doesn’t bother to say where these “legislative trade missions” headed, as if “China” is the “by default” destination in the writer’s subconsciousness. This gives the readers the impression that the author of this sentence must be Chinese.

However, much to her astonishment, Ms. M found that the “registered agent” of OCSSRC is not Lan Jin, but Dennis Richardson.

Under the “Photo Stories” of OCSSRC’s website, a lot of happy photos of a smiling Richardson can be seen, featuring him leading a trade delegation to China in 2017.

Further search for this trip to China brought out other aspects of it. A reportof the Oregonian, a daily newspaper in Portland, revealed that Richardson’s trade mission was partly paid for by China.

According to the report, Richardson “gave The Oregonian/OregonLive three different explanations of how his travel costs will be paid.”

“He first said participating businesses would pay his costs.” Then he said that Lan Lin would have his “expenses covered,” as this was the condition for his participation. The third version was, “the costs would be paid by the national and provincial divisions of the Chinese government.”

The report also revealed that Richardson would not disclose which companies would accompany him to China without Lan’s permission.

The Oregonian/OregonLive report was published on Sept. 27, 2017. On the same day, Richardson released a newsletter stating that:

“OCSSRC is an Oregon non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to promoting the mutual interests of Oregon and China. I helped organize the OCSSRC in 2004 and remain the Registered Agent. Although I haven’t had much involvement since 2012, OCSSRC graciously offered to pay my transportation expenses to and from China, but to avoid any appearance of undue-influence, I will be paying for the round-trip economy fare from the Secretary of State travel budget. Since I have Type 1 Diabetes and blood circulation health considerations, I will be upgrading my seat on the 12-hour flight using my own funds. Once in China, as part of their international outreach budgets the local Chinese government organizations cover the costs of American officials. Thus, other than the cost of the airfare ($523) for an economy seat, my expenses for this delegation will not be paid from Oregon public funds.”

This confirms that “local Chinese government organizations cover the costs of American officials.”

In “Notes from Secretary Richardson” published on Nov. 7, 2017 on the Secretary of State’s website, one day before Richardson’s trip to China, under a subtitle “DEEPENING RELATIONS,” it is stated that, “Because our Chinese hosts value family participation, two of my grandsons will accompany me at their own expense.”

list of the participants shows that Richardson’s 12 member “delegation” had only himself as an Oregon official. Four in the delegation were OCSSRC members including Lan Jin. Five were local business people selected by Lan Jin, including two Chinese; other two were Richardson’s grandsons.

The Oregonian report calls this “unconventional.”

“Nearly every aspect of the trip’s planning is unconventional, according to current and former business development officials, and raises ethical concerns,” the Oregonian report says.

“State agencies follow certain protocols when conducting trade missions. Trips led by the governor are well-staffed, and businesses that are part of the delegation are publicly identified and vetted through a competitive process.”

The Oregonian report says that, in contrast to Richardson, Gov. Kate Brown, who was going to lead a trade mission to Japan and Hong Kong in October that year, “will travel with more than two dozen staff and representatives of a dozen food and beverage exporters.”

According to Terry Cooper, professor of government ethics at the University of Southern California, “none of” Richardson’s arrangements “are ethically sound, including having Lan organize previous China trips for Oregon legislators, including excursions Richardson took part in, having the national and provincial divisions of the Chinese government pay Richardson’s travel costs, and having Lan’s company choose which firms would accompany Richardson to China.”

Cooper was quoted as saying, “In China, there’s a lot that goes on that’s corrupt. You really have to be careful.”

report at the “News” section of OCSSRC’s website entitled “OCSSRC November 2017 Trade Mission Led by Oregon Secretary of State” confirms that OCSSRC arranged Richardson’s mission to travel to “seven cities and three provinces” in China:

“Oregon China Sister State Relations Council (OCSSRC) carried out a successful November 2017 Trade Mission to China, led by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. The itinerary spanned seven cities and three provinces, including 16 official meetings, numerous tours and four official ceremonies.”

“OCSSRC President Lan Jin explained, ‘OCSSRC has organized this trade mission to China.’”

Chen Yonglin, former First Secretary of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, who defected to Australia in 2005, disclosed in detail how the CCP corrupted Australian politicians and officials in an interview with The Epoch Times last year.

He said, “The problems don’t only lie with political donations. Briberies made in private are much bigger, especially to high level politicians and officials.”

According to Chen, the CCP’s methods include inviting those people to China, and treating them like kings. Some Chinese people or companies even “entertain” the officials with prostitutes.

As a result, many Australian officials changed their stance about China immediately after they came back from China.

“The CCP also gives benefits to family members of Australian officials. Many Australian officials’ relatives wanted to study Chinese, so the CCP offered them a scholarship to study in China. For example, in 2005, the Chinese consulate in Sydney alone had more than a dozen such scholarships to offer,” Chen revealed.

Once a child of Henry Tsang, former member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and to the Treasurer on Trade and Investment, wanted to go to China to study, the Chinese consulate immediately gave him a scholarship, with both tuition fees and living expenses covered for free.

“The CCP also directly bribes the Australian officials through Chinese companies and wealthy Chinese businessmen in Australia,” Chen says.

During the exclusive interview with People’s Daily, when asked about how to improve relationships with the American people, Lan Jin “winks his eyes and suggests, ‘The simplest way, is get to know an American friend, the kind that can be put onto your Emergency Contact List.’ ”

For Ms. M, Richardson could be exactly such a friend for Lan, who had spent at least 15 or 20 years to develop the relationship.

Although her discoveries has been shocking enough along the way, Ms. M believes they could still be only the tip of the iceberg. Apart from calling some schools which host Confucius Classrooms, she started contacting her House representatives to raise her concerns.

“CCP’s penetration has been way deeper and broader, and beyond one’s wildest imagination! How could I sit still and do nothing?” she asks.

Screenshot of the website of Oregon China Sister State Relations Council featuring Vice Premier Liu Yandong (R) and Lan Jin, president of the council. (Screenshot/ Oregon China Sister State Relations Council)

Screenshot of the website of Oregon China Sister State Relations Council featuring Vice Premier Liu Yandong (R) and Lan Jin, president of the council. (Screenshot/ Oregon China Sister State Relations Council)

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