THE ALLIANCE FOR SECURING DEMOCRACY EXPANDS AUTHORITARIAN INTERFERENCE TRACKER TO INCLUDE CHINA
Interactive tool catalogues over 160 examples of China’s efforts to undermine democracy in 24 countries
Washington, D.C. – The Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States today expanded its Authoritarian Interference Tracker to include activities undertaken by China’s government to undermine democratic states and institutions. In addition to tracking Russian state-sponsored interference activities, this interactive tool now catalogues 165 examples of interference from China in 24 transatlantic countries since 2006 using five tools: information manipulation, cyber operations, malign finance, civil society subversion, and economic coercion.
From China’s economic pressure to silence pro-democracy voices within the NBA to the theft of 145 million Americans’ credit data, the Authoritarian Interference Tracker documents through open source reporting how China uses mutually reinforcing asymmetric tools to undermine transatlantic democracy while advancing its geopolitical interests. Targeting democratic nations, the Chinese government has orchestrated cyber-attacks against public and private institutions, opaquely funneled financial resources to those willing to defend its interests, subverted civil society to silence its critics, invested in a propaganda apparatus to “tell China’s story well,” and used the often implied but increasingly explicit threat of economic coercion. Future iterations of the Tracker will catalog cases of Chinese government interference in democracies in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world beyond the transatlantic community.
Key takeaways include:
- Civil society subversion is the most frequently used tool of Chinese interference – 94 catalogued incidents and counting. China’s efforts to control ethnic Chinese diaspora communities, even when they live in democracies, shows the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) desire to control narratives beyond its borders. Several countries are actively helping this effort by giving Chinese law enforcement agencies latitude to operate abroad. For instance, several press reports explain that the Chinese national security law that came into force in Hong Kong in June 2020 caused major banks like Credit Suisse and UBS to screen their client lists for potential ties to the democratic movement in the city. In other words, the prospect of losing the CCP’s favor turned banks headquartered in Europe into enforcers for China’s repression of pro-democracy citizens.
- China’s state-backed media subvert democracies’ free press through business partnerships. Information manipulation takes many forms in the 41 examples captured in the Tracker, including outright propaganda on state-backed media and disinformation from China’s diplomats on Twitter. Another, less visible, aspect of this effort is agreements between Chinese state media and media outlets in democracies. For instance, a state-controlled propaganda body is now the main purveyor of China-related information for Italy’s largest news agency. Because of a partnership between Ansa and China’s largest agency Xinhua, most of the Ansa’s China-related content is now written by, or in collaboration with, Xinhua, which has been called “the world’s biggest propaganda agency” by pro-press freedom NGO Reporters Without Borders. Similar content-sharing agreements exist in Poland, Germany, and other countries.
- Unlike Russia’s use of covert money, China primarily funnels money to mainstream political parties, both center-left and center-right. Malign finance is the least covered and understood of the five asymmetric tools. The Tracker captures 20 examples, including cases in which Chinese state-affiliated persons are tied to donations to Canada’s Conservative Party, as well as to the Trudeau Foundation. China selects the targets of its financial support based on their ability to advance Chinese interests. In practice, this has meant China focuses on political actors who are already in government or who will likely be elected to office.
The expanded Authoritarian Interference Tracker can be accessed here: https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/toolbox/authoritarian-interference-tracker/
Read more analysis of China’s interference in the transatlantic space here: https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/here-and-now-chinese-interference-in-the-transatlantic-space/
Reporters interested in an Authoritarian Interference Tracker briefing or interview should reach out to Rachael Dean Wilson or Kayla Goodson at firstname.lastname@example.org.