China has too much influence over Switzerland, finds study

Follow the leader: Chinese soldiers in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Keystone / Roman Pilipey

Research from Basel University suggests that on various levels, the Chinese party-state has too much influence over Switzerland.

This content was published on December 20, 2020 minutes
Keystone-SDA/NZZ am Sonntag/SWI/sm

According to Basel University, Ralph Weber’s studyExternal link is the “first work to explore tactics of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) influence and United Front activitiesExternal link in Switzerland”. It focuses on personal and institutional networks, and lists efforts to exert influence on “issues Beijing regards as sensitive, including questions concerning Tibet, Taiwan, or Xinjiang”.

Based on the study, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper highlights a “spin doctor” living in western Switzerland: Yuming Yang, who is currently on the board of the Bern-based Swiss China Investment Platform Association – along with Hans-Ulrich Bigler, the director of the Swiss Trade Association (SGV).

When contacted by the Sunday newspaper for a comment, Henrique Schneider, SGV’s vice director, replied, “It is not up to us to judge how China or Chinese groups assess cooperation or use it in their communication, just as it is not up to our partners to assess our communication. As long as Switzerland treats the second-largest trading partner as a strategic partner, China is also a partner for the largest umbrella group of the Swiss economy”.

In his 70-page Sinopsis studyExternal link, Weber writes that several Swiss-based actors, including SGV, “operate under the assumption of a false equivalence, mistaking CCP-controlled bodies for civil-society associations and for their ‘counterpart’. This finding points to the need for increased awareness building at all levels of Swiss society, economy and politics, and establishing a more solid knowledge base on the structure and functioning of the Chinese party-state”.

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