China talks. On May 24, an FBI Deputy Senior National Intelligence Officer stepped into Palazzo San Macuto, housing the Italian Parliament’s Intelligence Committee (COPASIR), in central Rome. His name was Patrick Shiflett, and he had requested the informal meeting himself to discuss “Chinese interference”.
- Italy’s leading daily newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, reported as much. The article added that Mr Shiflett was accompanied by four staffers of the United States Embassy in Rome and a personal interpreter.
He said what, now? After talks on Chinese propaganda and influence operations, the FBI officer reportedly stated that US authorities are investigating whether China had financed the presidential campaign of the former President, Donald Trump.
- Mr Shiflett was explaining how Beijing pushes to consolidate its soft power in the US by financing foundations, universities and cultural clubs, as well as politics – which are well-known Chinese practices in Italy, too, as COPASIR repeatedly highlighted.
- The US delegation reportedly left the meeting immediately after the shocking revelation.
- Neither COPASIR nor the US Embassy later contradicted the contents of Corriere’s piece.
More China talks? A delegation from COPASIR will travel to Washington next week, on June 12. Members are slated to meet officials from US intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and the FBI itself. And one has to wonder whether the Italian delegation will touch upon the China issue during conversations with their American counterparts.