EVENT: PRC Influence and Subnational Diplomacy

About the Event

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) uses subnational diplomacy to further its geopolitical interests. By infiltrating local governments and using United Front strategies, the PRC has been able to extend its influence globally, often undermining local autonomy and democratic processes in other countries.

Within the current framework, initiatives such as “sister city” partnerships may run counter to the West’s strategy of de-risking. Subnational partnerships with PRC towns pose risks for Western countries. The German approach to subnational diplomacy is marked by decentralization and autonomous decision-making, while the PRC’s approach follows a highly controlled and coordinated top-down strategy, aligning it with broader national interests. This means that local governments at all levels adhere strictly to national policies. When foreign entities engage with PRC cities, they are effectively dealing with extensions of the PRC party-state apparatus. Under the guise of fostering international cooperation, the United Front adeptly advances Beijing’s foreign policy agenda and economic objectives, embedding its influence within the fabric of local politics and industry.

The Jamestown Foundation is honored to host an expert panel to discuss the mechanisms through which the PRC operates overseas at the local level, the implications of these actions, and how targeted countries, namely the United States and Germany, can respond effectively.

The event will be held online over Zoom and subsequently uploaded to The Jamestown Foundation’s YouTube channel.

Register Here


Peter Mattis, President, Jamestown Foundation

Ray Wong, Chair, Freedom for Hong Kong Association

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Cheryl Yu, China Studies Fellow, Jamestown Foundation


Peter Mattis, President, Jamestown Foundation


Peter Mattis is President of The Jamestown Foundation, a position he began in Fall 2023. He returned to the foundation after having served as editor of China Brief from 2011 to 2013 and as a fellow in the China program from 2013 to 2018. Prior to rejoining Jamestown, Mr. Mattis was Senior Fellow with the U.S. House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party on loan from the Special Competitive Studies Project where he served as Director for Intelligence.

Ray Wong is the chair of German NGO Freiheit für Hongkong (“Freedom for Hong Kong,” or “FfHK”). In 2015, he founded the political group Hong Kong Indigenous (“本土民主前線”; literally, the “Local-land Democracy Front”) which became one of the city’s leading pro-democracy activist groups. Between 2015 and 2016, he was arrested multiple times and charged with “participating in a riot” and “inciting a riot.” These charges can lead to prison sentences of up to 10 years. Wong fled in 2017 and was granted asylum in Germany the following year, becoming the first refugee from Hong Kong fleeing political persecution. In Germany, he continues to campaign for Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy. He is also an advisor to a London-based NGO, Hong Kong Watch, and co-founded and serves on the editorial board of the first Hong Kong diaspora magazine, Flow HK.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow is a journalist with extensive experience covering PRC politics, society and foreign policy, who works at Newsweek. She is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she spent nearly four decades there and in mainland China as well as Taiwan, including stints at the Eastern Express, The Associated Press, the South China Morning Post, and the New York Times. She has published on PRC interference in German politics for Sinopsis, a Prague-based think tank, and was a fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations. Tatlow is the co-editor and co-author of China’s Quest for Foreign Technology: Beyond Espionage (Routledge, 2021).

Cheryl Yu is a Fellow in China Studies at The Jamestown Foundation and the author of an upcoming report on the United Front groups in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Her research on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its operations has been published by think tanks, academic journals, and global media. Previously, she was the China Programs and Research Manager at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and a research and outreach consultant for Freedom House’s China analysis team. She has a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, where she produced an independent research project on the impact of the CCP’s surveillance of Chinese students in the United States. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.