American vs. Chinese Propaganda, with Robert Daly

Jul 16, 2018

As China's middle class grows, Hollywood is making films with this audience in mind, says the Wilson Center's Robert Daly, previously a producer for the Chinese version of "Sesame Street." How is this different from filmmaking in the World War II and Cold War eras? And why did the Chinese government have a problem with Cookie Monster and Grover?

Podcast music: Blindhead and Mick Lexington.

DEVIN STEWART: Hi, I'm Devin Stewart here at Carnegie Council in New York City, and today I am speaking with Robert Daly, who is director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Previously, he was of all things the producer of Chinese-language versions of Sesame Street.

Robert, great to speak with you today.

ROBERT DALY: Good to be with you.

DEVIN STEWART: I've seen some of your recent panels, some of your recent talks. This podcast today is part of an ongoing series of interviews and projects we're doing on what we call Information Warfare, so it's looking at various ways countries try to influence one another through the state media, through propaganda, and through rhetoric.

Before we get into influence operations, how do you describe the relationship between China and the United States today? You've given some recent interesting remarks, describing the relationship in a very unique way. How do you see the U.S.-China relationship?

ROBERT DALY: I think now we have entered a period of long-term structural hostility in U.S.-China relations. That is playing out across economic, geostrategic, ideological, and informational spheres, and it's also playing out worldwide. This is the world's first truly global relationship, and it is a relationship between, I would argue, peer competitors. China is already a peer competitor. There are indices in which the United States clearly leads. There are a growing number of indices in which China is doing very well, and China, furthermore, likes the trend lines as it looks forward.

China is a geostrategic competitor. I would not call it an enemy. It has the potential to become an inimical relationship, but leaders in both countries are determined I think to avoid that if they can, and they also recognize that there is still ample room for cooperation and that cooperation is in some areas essential.

So this is an extremely complex and indeed unprecedented kind of relationship for the United States, and we are facing this challenge at a time when we are involved in a political and cultural crisis at home that makes it tough to get our own interests and capabilities clear as we confront again a global peer competitor in the People's Republic of China.

DEVIN STEWART: In which way is the relationship unprecedented? You mentioned the word "infected," which you were a little bit cautious to use in the past. I think you had three characteristics that you used to describe the relationship that is different from previous rivalrous relationships.

ROBERT DALY: Right. We're still trying to get the terminology right on this. It's important to pay more attention to that than we have. I know that you speak of informational warfare. We're now talking about a trade war with China. I think that the higher the danger of real war or conflict the more careful we have to be about using martial metaphors generally.

Yes, the situation we're now in with China fits the definition of a trade war in that we have mutually destructive tit-for-tat tariffs. At the same time, trade "war" invokes outright hostility, and we could in fact describe what is happening by saying the prices of a small percentage of the stuff that we sell to each other are going to go up for a while. That doesn't sound quite so dire, does it?


ROBERT DALY: Not as dire as a trade war, but in fact it's a factual description of where we now are. The prices of some of the stuff that we sell are going to go up for a while. It could get worse, but for now that's a fair characterization.

But when I say that we worry about "infection" from China, this is a new factor in U.S.-China relations and in China's relations worldwide. The Five Eyes nations, which includes the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, and other free nations in Europe and in Asia, are increasingly concerned about current Chinese Communist Party influence on institutions and communities at home, in our case, within the United States, and the various ways that China, primarily through money, is able to influence American practices and understandings and perhaps most importantly to buy American silence on what used to be seen as major issues like human rights and like Chinese aggression and expansion in the South China Sea.

When we speak of infiltration or infection, it's again primarily through the vector of money that China is able to acclimatize Americans to China's policies and therefore to legitimize some of those policies. It does this not through making convincing arguments, not through effective propaganda as it was understood during the Cold War, but through very intelligently leveraging its market and its wealth.

DEVIN STEWART: You mentioned, for example, that Hollywood has to be sensitive to movies that it green-lights that it can get through Chinese censors because the Chinese market is so big. The end result is that Hollywood produces movies that are acceptable to the Chinese Communist Party but maybe not intentionally so. Can you speak about some of the various ways in which China is able to influence opinion in the United States and other countries?

ROBERT DALY: The Hollywood example is a good one, and it is intentional. Hollywood knows full well what is going on. I think year on year America still has the biggest box office in the world, but China in a quarter earlier this year had the biggest box office and will surely by virtue of its population in the near future have annually the world's biggest box office.

Hollywood runs on the blockbuster model. That's how they make their profit, and now you can't be a blockbuster unless you play in China. Therefore, Hollywood's major studios don't green-light film proposals that would be objectionable to China because they cast China or the Communist Party in a negative light.

You haven't seen major studio films that do that really since about 1997. In 1997, there were three: There was a Richard Gere movie called Red Corner; there was a Martin Scorsese movie about the Dalai Lama called Kundun; and then there was a Brad Pitt film called Seven Years in Tibet. That was the last time that has happened. Now these movies don't get made.

That same logic of pursuing the Chinese market and therefore accepting Chinese conditions applies to publishing if you want an international bestseller. It applies to gaming, which is more profitable than Hollywood film.

So you say, "Well, why does that matter?" I've made this argument to some Americans who say: "Well, it doesn't matter because these Hollywood blockbusters, they're all kind of vulgar and shallow. It's just junk anyway."

I don't buy that. If you think that film, indeed if you think that popular culture at all matters, then when you look back at the history of American film, at the films that came out of—go back to Charlie Chaplin, the Industrial Revolution in Modern Times; World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, Johnny Got His Gun; all of the World War II movies. Remember that we were responding to World War II concerns in real time. Casablanca was made before we entered the war. Then with the Cold War, lots of Cold War movies. There have been a lot of movies, even Zero Dark Thirty, preaching about concerns in the Middle East as well as the films about racism and the films about Vietnam.

So you look back at American cultural history and you see that when American culture is functioning in a free and healthy way, film—good, bad, and indifferent—is one of the ways that we process our issues of greatest concern. China is now one of our issues of greatest concern, and yet we're not processing that through film, which means that our culture isn't functioning in a free and healthy way.

In saying that, I'm not calling for a bunch of jingoistic, idiotic, even racist films that portray China as the new boogeyman, although there will surely be some of those. This isn't an argument about quality, it's about the healthy functioning of our culture.

But this comes back to the question of intentionality. This is not really on China. This is on us. It's Hollywood in its desire for profit—and these guys are supposed to be the shapers of American dreams, of images, the builders of American soft power. By pursuing the Chinese dollar they have allowed the Communist Party to censor what Americans see in the multiplex now. We should care about that.

DEVIN STEWART: Absolutely.

ROBERT DALY: We seem not to be able to get the kind of traction that we should with that, but it has been going on already for decades. Hollywood knows this and is silent about it, but there are voices within Hollywood that understand this, but they want Chinese box office, they want Chinese funding for their films.

Again, ditto publishing, ditto gaming, ditto products that want to sell in China and therefore that have to meet Chinese specs, and this is true for things like Apple iPhones that have to manufacture to Chinese specs. China is leveraging the fact that it's the world's greatest trading nation, soon to be the world's largest economy with the world's largest middle class, which means that China becomes tastemakers to the world at both the supply and the demand sides, and this is happening in an increasingly authoritarian, even in some cases paranoid, society which heavily censors all cultural production and which explicitly demands that they serve the Communist Party. Yet where is the outcry in the United States? It tends to be a niche concern.

DEVIN STEWART: I guess what I meant by "unintentional" is that maybe the inadvertent making things palatable to the Chinese Communist Party might not be a problem of commission but one of omission. I'm just asking you: Do you think that the people in Hollywood are communist sympathizers or do they just want to make it palatable?

ROBERT DALY: No. They sympathize with their bottom line.


ROBERT DALY: It's not political in that sense. No, they're not communist sympathizers. No, they don't want to carry out a political agenda at all. They're carrying out a corporatist agenda, and it's because China poses a challenge that we've never seen before that we're handling this so badly.

During the Cold War when you had a lot of movies about the Cold War, the Soviet Union was not a significant market, so this question didn't come up. You could have The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Hunt for Red October or Gorky Park or White Nights or Moscow on the Hudson—fill in the blank. This is part of what Americans do. But now you've got a peer competitor that is ideologically deeply concerning which is also the world's biggest market, and that is new. That is casting this harsh spotlight on the American market mandate to make money, the American security mandate, and the American mandate for the openness and freedom of our culture. Core American values and institutions based on those values are being set at odds with each other because of this new Chinese challenge.

We don't even have a vocabulary, a way of talking about this or approaching this. It's new, so of course we're not doing very well with it, but we could be doing better if we had a better public discussion.

DEVIN STEWART: Before we get into other ways that China is shaping the narrative out there, I'm wondering about America's own initiatives. In the past you've talked about in World War II and in the Cold War Hollywood helped drum up patriotism or a sense of nationalist verve. Was that in partnership with the U.S. government at all?

Also, I'm just curious. In your own experience working with the Chinese-language version of Sesame Street, what are America's tools in shaping its own narrative?

ROBERT DALY: In World War II it was a mixed bag. You had, for example, Frank Capra, the director of It's a Wonderful Life, who helped direct a series of propaganda films called Why We Fight which were quite influential and which were shown in movie theaters. Some of them were very good. There's one called The Battle for China, which is a valuable piece of historical filmmaking. So Frank Capra got involved in this. Dr. Seuss drew patriotic cartoons, which were propaganda of a sort. Also, during World War II you can go back to YouTube and look at Looney Tunes' depictions of, say, the Japanese threat during World War II which are grossly racist and purely Looney Tunes.

So on the one hand an awful lot of creative talent went into government-directed propaganda, but at the same time you had writers of novels and short stories and makers of films who were operating wholly independently and were responding in a way that was free and critical and driven by whatever the artistic lights of the individual creator were. You had both, and you could do both.

It's interesting. The Sesame Street case—I wasn't the producer of it; I played a role in the production of it over a couple of years—was an interesting case because it really failed in the 1990s, and we thought that it was going to be huge because in the late 1980s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had taken China by storm, and Tom and Jerry cartoons were extremely popular. Even today you can go to cities in China, and outside of a big, new, shiny shopping mall you'll have a huge jumbotron, and they'll be showing Tom and Jerry cartoons, and there will be crowds of people looking at these things.

So American cultural product had been very popular, and of course Sesame Street, I think probably the most influential American television show ever, certainly over the course of, what, 1970 I think it gets launched, so it's been around for a long time. So we thought: Well, this is nothing but kid-friendly. It's educational, and the Chinese value that. This should go over very well.

The Children's Television Workshop in New York—it's now called the Sesame Workshop—that did this in cooperation with Shanghai Television,I felt got everything right. They weren't even remotely culturally arrogant. Their international bureau is very keen on having—whether they're operating in China or in the Middle East or in Mexico—local educators, local producers, local puppeteers, local animators determine all of the content, and they see the Sesame Street model broadly as a kind of technology transfer: Here's a shell that you can use, but this should all be local content. They got everything right.

At the end of the day, it didn't go over very well, and the reason in my view was cultural. It was very telling. The Chinese writers could not marry children's education to humor. That's a very American move. But in the Chinese, more Confucian system, education is top-down: "Sit down, shut up, memorize, learn, and regurgitate this."

If you think about Sesame Street humor, think about Cookie Monster or Grover or Ernie, all of these characters are anarchists. The comedy of anarchy and irreverence and overturning hierarchies and expectation and even authority. It's Ernie versus Bert. Bert's the Confucian, he's the square, he's the parent figure. Coming out of the 1960s, it's a comedy of anarchy.

DEVIN STEWART: Interesting.

ROBERT DALY: The Chinese could not, as a cultural matter, make that move even within a Chinese institution like Shanghai Television, even though when exposed in the first instance to more anarchic American comedy in various ways Chinese people respond to it pretty well. But within a formal government institution like Shanghai TV, it just could not happen. It was inadmissible.

DEVIN STEWART: That's really fascinating. You mentioned Confucius. Let's look at the Confucius Institutes for a second. What are we to make of those institutes coming about in the United States and on American campuses?

Also, there are recent reports that the Confucius Institutes might consider partnering with the technology company ZTE to collect intelligence. Is American fear about these institutes overblown? What are we to make of them?

ROBERT DALY: I would say that the fears are overblown, but the concerns are legitimate. When the Confucius Institutes were set up, the Chinese government quite overtly said these are going to help spread China's soft power. So this is part of China's attempt to get Americans and people in other countries to accept the prerogatives and practices of the Chinese Communist Party and to have a positive view of China.

I should hasten to add that there are many aspects of China on which we should have a positive view. There's a lot of great stuff going on there. There's a lot of creativity. So I don't want this to sound like a blanket demonization by any means.

But the Confucius Institutes do a couple of things: They teach Chinese-language courses, and that to me is an untrammeled good. It is profoundly in the interest of the United States as well as American communities and individual Americans that we study Chinese and other foreign languages more. This should be a part of public school curricula beginning in the first grade. We need that. It's personally enriching, so I'm all for far more Americans really going deep and studying Chinese.

I wish that we would fund it in our own national interest, but if we're not willing to fund it—and we're not willing or able to fund it—then I'm going to take the money to have Chinese-language courses. There is nothing about studying the Chinese language which makes you a patsy or a sucker for Chinese Communist Party thinking. There is just no evidence of a connection there. We do need to be studying the Chinese language.

But the issue is that Chinese money comes with conditions, and that's where the issue really comes up. John Fitzgerald, who is a leading Australian Sinologist, put it—and he gave me his okay to quote him on this; it was in a private conversation—he said I could use this: "The issue with the Confucius Institutes is that Confucius Institutes signal to the Chinese government that the university that hosts them does not conduct due diligence relative to China program." That's the issue.

Then, most Confucius Institutes are not set up by Chinese language departments in American universities or by China studies experts, they are set up by university administrators who have a hard time resisting money and who have the idea that having a Confucius Institute will somehow—and this is never clearly articulated—help to curry favor in China such that other benefits will flow. Whether the idea is that Chinese multinationals will give you money, whatever it may be, the idea is that this is a way to curry favor with China.

Of course, once you let the Confucius Institute in, then you're rather stuck because if you want to push the Confucius Institute out, China takes names and is going to make you pay a price.

It's not just universities. Over the past several decades of close involvement with China, most of which has been positive for Americans and Chinese, much of which has been deeply enriching, but what it means is that American localities—counties, cities, states—American institutions including universities and schools, have all developed China interests and therefore China policy, and they've gotten linked up with China such that if they now want to pull back they know that China will take names and exact a price.

So if I decide to cancel my Confucius Institute, will China then stop sending undergraduate students to my state university, undergraduate students who pay full four-year out-of-state tuition, which I have come to rely on especially over the last 10 years to, among other things, provide scholarship money for American students? So, China takes names. You could enter into something like a Confucius Institute relationship with goodwill, but then you're stuck. Then China has leverage over you.

So I think that the best model for Confucius Institutes—they shouldn't be in universities. Standalone organizations like Goethe-Institut, Alliance Française, or the British Council that offer Chinese-language training, that's fine. If they're working with public school systems to provide K-12 Chinese, that's fine. But they shouldn't be in American universities, ideally.

I don't mean that Congress should kick them out of universities. The decision should be made by America's free and autonomous higher-educational institutions, but I think that experience has proven that having a Confucius Institute gives the Chinese government leverage in universities which is harmful to American higher education.

DEVIN STEWART: Is there an implication that students at those universities that have Confucius Institutes might benefit in their future careers after they graduate?

ROBERT DALY: No, I don't think so. I wouldn't overstate that.

Again, this notion that the Confucius Institutes are "nests of spies" that are conducting espionage on American campuses, I don't think there is any evidence to suggest that, and I've had close involvement with a number of Confucius Institutes, and they are really just providing Chinese–language training and saying, "Please repeat after me: Nihao, nihao, nihao." That's what they do.

The cultural programming that they provide is anodyne, mostly shallow stuff, some of which has a political context: Here's a display, for example, of beautiful photographs taken from China's Tibet. "Isn't China's Tibet beautiful? Therefore, isn't it good that it is China's?" But it's transparent, shallow stuff. They're not teaching anything about Confucius.

But the problem with this if you're looking at Confucius Institutes, and the problem with looking at film and the problem with looking at influence generally, is that the evidence is of the "dogs that don't bark" kind. We're talking about movies that don't get made as evidence.

In the case of the Confucius Institutes, if you go back to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, after that many universities had a lot of panels, a lot of speeches, they analyzed and talked about the meaning of this for China and for the world. You don't tend to hear those panels that much anymore.

There weren't a lot of big, open, public panel discussions at American universities, for example, when the Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo died. It's a "dogs that don't bark" kind of problem. It's a problem of gradual voluntary acclimatization driven by Chinese money or the illusion of Chinese money in which it appears but we cannot prove that more and more American institutions and institutional leaders, including at universities, are deciding that maybe it's the better part of wisdom not to hold a panel on X. As I've said before, we are proving to be easily bought.

One of the difficulties with raising these alarms is that it's prone to—concerns about Chinese influence can be blown out of proportion fairly readily. Americans are very quick to label any of this kind of concern as a new form of McCarthyism. These kinds of concerns can be raised in ways that smack frankly of racism and of demonizing the Chinese American communities and even the Chinese students who have made fantastic contributions to the United States in all sorts of fields in the case of the Chinese American community over the past 100 years and in the case of the Chinese students who have come here and stayed over the past several decades. These folks, as I say, have been an essential force in the United States. They've provided energy and talent that we badly need, and they are also an important force for rational, constructive U.S.-China relations. It is essential that we not lose track of that.

We have legitimate concerns about espionage in universities, about the outflow through universities of strategically important knowledge, but in the main the story of Chinese students coming to the United States has been one that we should be tremendously proud of and that we've derived great benefits from.

How do you raise these serious concerns without doing damage to the very positive aspects of engagement? It's a tricky prospect.

DEVIN STEWART: It's tricky. It sounds like you're describing the effect as quieting criticism of China.


DEVIN STEWART: Do you have a sense of what the impact of perceptions about China has been? I understand that China is fairly well regarded in the United States among the general population.

ROBERT DALY: This is interesting. This concern about Chinese influence here in the United States has emerged relatively quickly. It's not yet even a year old. The same could be said more or less in New Zealand, Australia, and the other countries that share these concerns. It came about fairly suddenly, and so far it's kind of a Washington inside-the-Beltway concern. Recent Gallup and Pew polling has shown that actually you've got positive views of China at a historic high nationally.

But this is also in play. I think you're going to see the needle moving on this. The reason I say that—and this is sort of personal and anecdotal—is I've been speaking recently with, for example, the American Association of Universities, with groups from various localities all over the United States that include university leaders and chambers of commerce that come to Washington. This is one of the things that think tanks do. I'll spend an afternoon with these groups and talk about the nature of the relationship.

I'm getting a lot of invitations with people buying me tickets to fly out to localities because they're saying: "Yes, we are having these issues. We're having these issues in our universities. We're having these issues in some cases with Chinese-invested companies locally, but we don't know how to understand it. We don't know how to talk about it, but it's a growing concern."

The implication of your question is right, that Americans do have, it seems, in the majority positive views of China, and that is not to be opposed. We are not looking for an inimical relationship with China. But we are engaged in this long-term, worldwide, comprehensive strategic, economic, and ideological competition of sorts, even as we can benefit from interaction and cooperation with each other.

So we've got to be vigilant but not paranoid, and we've got to remind ourselves of our own strengths, the strengths of diversity, immigration, free speech, and open interchange of ideas in particular, and not be afraid of this but be alert to it. I have been for over 30 years a big proponent of engagement with China, and I remain a proponent of engagement with China. Engagement has to be more sensitive to geostrategic concerns as well as these concerns about influence or infection, but engagement has to be a pillar of our relations with China going forward. This remains essential. So I hope that this podcast won't be seen as fanning flames of paranoid fears of China across the board.

By all means, study more Chinese. Master the language. Go to China. Study tai chi. Paint calligraphy. Do it. Go deep. We need that. But be vigilant.

DEVIN STEWART: You mentioned earlier that the needle might be moving in the future. In which direction do you anticipate it moving?

ROBERT DALY: I think toward more concern about China because of the price that China exacts for its involvement with universities, in some cases in localities. There are growing numbers of issues—I don't mean to say that this applies in every case, but it applies in some prominent cases that I can't name for reasons of confidentiality—where you have major Chinese investment that provides jobs for Americans. These are quite reasonably welcome.

But Chinese corporations, when they come into American communities, not surprisingly in many cases act as Chinese corporations act, including in their personnel policies, many of which are either undigestible or illegal in the United States. So there's blowback after initial enthusiasm. Some Chinese corporations have also been very nimble about adjusting to that. So you can't characterize all Chinese investment in the same way. But Chinese money tends to come with Chinese conditions.

One of the claims of Chinese diplomacy and economic diplomacy is that unlike the United States or the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, China invests without political prejudice and without political conditions. What they mean by that is that China will invest in a totalitarian dictatorship or in a democracy without requiring that either of those places change its political system, and that's true.

China also means that it will invest without—like the major development banks of the United States—insisting on, say, austerity measures to get your domestic economic house in order. That may be shifting because China has been burned in Venezuela and other places, but by and large there is some truth in that.

But the notion that China doesn't have any conditions is totally false. China has Chinese conditions, which is that if you're getting investments from China, you're not to be critical of China. If you get the high-speed railroad across your country in, say, Kenya, then you are not to criticize China in the South China Sea or to criticize China on human rights. So Chinese conditionality again is all about legitimizing Chinese practices, acclimatizing to Chinese practices, and that means at a bare minimum not being critical, shutting up. This is part of Chinese conditionality: Shut up about what you don't like about China if you want the dollar. This is also true for universities, institutions, and communities.

DEVIN STEWART: Do Chinese conditionalities merit their own unique concerns about backlash?

ROBERT DALY: This is in play, and we are seeing that now. There was a wave in the early 2000s of many universities, not all, opening their doors to Confucius Institutes because it looked like a money tree and because it was understood that there was a growing amount of wealth in China, there were students coming from China, and so you want to be in China's good graces.

Now we're seeing a slow and I would say very uneven backlash in which some places are feeling the costs of that. Others aren't. Some of these Confucius Institutes are going very well, and they are educating American students in ways that are worth being educated.

So it's uneven, but I think you're going to see this period of backlash is going to be protracted and uneven because it's uneven, because there is so much good work being done, and because many of these concerns again have to do with dogs that don't bark and with silences. It's hard to prove the origin of silences. So this is going to be very tricky. Again, China poses challenges of a sort that we have not seen before, and it's happening at a time when Americans doubt their own political and cultural cohesion and are questioning their own place in the world, so it makes it very hard to frame these concerns well, and you've seen some recent examples of overreach that I think are highly concerning.

About a month ago the leader of a congressional committee wrote a letter to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is located in Washington, DC. The NRDC is an environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) which has an international presence, including a presence in China.

This letter, which was written to the head of the NRDC but was also public, said in essence—and I'm paraphrasing, so I would encourage listeners to go ahead and look up the letter and read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions: "You use different tactics in China and the United States, and in China in your advocacy for better environmental policies you cooperate closely with the Chinese government, and you've cooperated with the elements of the Chinese government that are involved in the South China Sea and China's buildup in the South China Sea. You are a sort of fellow traveler with the Chinese government, whereas here in the United States you tend to be more activist and in some cases to be a thorn in the side of government and to be advocating for policies to combat climate change."

Therefore, this letter says, you have—I think it was something like two weeks—"to prove to us that you're not an agent of the Chinese government."

Again, Americans are much too quick to raise the specter of McCarthyism. But of course international NGOs adopt different tactics in different nations because different nations have different conditions. In a country where you can get better environmental policies for the sake of improved human welfare by working with the government, you'll work with the government. In countries that have an open debate and in which there is a strong anti-climate change constituency, you're going to be more confrontational because you can be, again for the sake of stronger environmental policy.


ROBERT DALY: That in no way should raise suspicions that you're an agent of a foreign government. That to me is an example of a worrisome trend along these lines. It can be exaggerated.

A sense of proportionality—and this is the last point of this that is very important. We're concerned about Chinese influence. At the same time, if you look at U.S.-China relations over the past 40 years, there is no question about who is influencing whom. Our influence in China in every single aspect of life there—thought, culture, fashion, writing, institutions, practices, laws, fill in the blank—it's not even 99 to 1. Our influence on them is even greater than that. We need to bear that in mind and keep a sense of proportionality. We are rightly suspicious, we are rightly vigilant. Yet, if you're looking at this and you're Chinese, you're saying, "Well, the Americans are concerned about Chinese influence in America? What are you talking about?"

Walk down the street in Beijing or Shanghai or even a small town, and these concerns sound comical. There are more people learning English in China than speaking it in the United States, and we're concerned about this almost irrelevant percentage of Americans studying a little Chinese in Confucius Institutes? We need to keep a sense of proportion here.

DEVIN STEWART: That's a great point to end on. Robert, thank you so much. Robert Daly is at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Fantastic to speak with you today, Robert. Thank you.

ROBERT DALY: Glad to have the opportunity. Thank you.

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