The Authoritarian Interference Tracker cataloguesthe Russian and Chinese governments’ activities to undermine democracy in more than 40 transatlantic countries since2000 using five tools: information manipulation, cyber operations, malign finance, civil society subversion, and economic coercion. The Tracker shines a light on the tactics and trends that define the Russian and Chinese governments’ interference efforts, and highlights the interconnectivity between different parts of the asymmetric toolkit. See below for definitions of these tools and an explanation of the methodology for including cases in the Tracker.
Efforts by the Russian and Chinese governments to undermine democracy are not restricted to the transatlantic community. For example, China is particularly active in interfering in democracies in the Asia-Pacific region. Forthcoming iterations of the Tracker will expand to regions beyond North America and Europe, as well as add instances of authoritarian interference by other regimes that adopt similar tactics to undermine democracies.
The Russian Federation’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, following years of attempts to undermine democracies across Europe, was the impetus that led to the creation of ASD. Since President Vladimir Putin came to office more than twenty years ago, the Russian government and its proxies have mobilized the resources and powers of the state to undermine democracies in the transatlantic space. These operations draw on tactics first sharpened during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union used so-called “active measures” to exploit divisions in American and other democratic societies. In their modern incarnation, Russia’s interference activities haveexploited vulnerabilities in the information ecosystem, cyberspace, and the global financial system, and used the openness and transparency of democratic societies against both sides of the Atlantic.
Since Xi Jinping assumed chairmanship, the Chinese Communist Party has been tightening its grip on all aspects of Chinese society andhas beenincreasingly using tactics honed domestically to project China’s power beyond its borders.Targeting democratic nations across the world, the Chinese government hasorchestrated cyber-attacks against public and private institutions, opaquely funneled financial resources to those willing to defend its interests, silenced its critics, and invested in a propaganda apparatus to “tell China’s story well” that regularly resorts to manipulated narratives and disinformation. With the often implied, but increasingly explicitthreat of economic coercion, all these aspects of the Chinese state’s interferencein democracies reinforce each other and are progressively constraining democracies’ ability to fight back and safeguard their values and autonomy.
ASD divides the data presented in the Tracker according to five interconnected asymmetric tools – information manipulation, cyber operations, malign finance, civil society subversion, and economic coercion. Many of the data entries are cross-tagged with multiple tools, highlighting how the Russian and Chinese governments use various tactics simultaneously to undermine and destabilize democracies.
ASD culled all of the data included in this project from open source reporting in numerous languages. Due to the often covert nature of authoritarian interference activities, identifying clear and direct attribution is difficult, and the data in the Tracker only includes incidents where there has been credible public attribution to Russian or Chinese government-linked entities.
In-country experts helped curate this data to ensure the Tracker captures the Russian and Chinese governments’ major campaigns in target countries, and ASD will continue to consult with them on new incidents of authoritarian interference as they happen in real time.
The coordinated use of social or traditional media to manipulate and influence public debate by deliberately spreading or amplifying information that is false, misleading, or distorted, and/or engaging in deceptive practices like masking or misrepresenting the provenance or intent of content, and/or intentionally suppressing information.
Cases of information manipulation are included if they are perpetrated by individuals or organizations funded by or connected to the Russian or Chinese governments, their ruling parties, or their proxies, such as overseas media holdings that mask their links. These entries provide representative examples of the outlets, narratives, and issues used to undermine democratic institutions and processes.
NOTE: This project does not seek to catalog every Russian or Chinese information operation conducted in specific countries. Rather, the entries gathered for this Tracker provide a representative example of the outlets, narratives, and target issues that characterize the Russian or Chinese governments’ information operations in transatlantic democracies.
The probing or penetration of computer networks or connected systems and devices to surreptitiously steal, alter, or collect data and/or to disrupt, manipulate, damage, or erode confidence in organizations, institutions, and processes.
Cyber operations are included if they are publicly attributed to the Russian or Chinese governments; their ruling parties; or to individuals, entities, or proxies acting at their behest. These entries provide representative examples of how cyber operations undermine democratic institutions or processes, such as faith in governments, critical infrastructure (to include election systems), and civil society actors.
The funding of foreign political parties, candidates, campaigns, well-connected elites, or politically influential groups, often through non-transparent structures designed to obfuscate ties to a nation state or its proxies.
Cases of malign finance are included if they are perpetrated by individuals, entities, or proxies, such as purportedly independent banks or businesspeople, with links to the Russian or Chinese governments or their ruling parties. Cases included are representative examples of how malign finance undermines democratic institutions or processes by surreptitiously influencing political debate, decision-making, electoral outcomes, and societal cohesion.
NOTE: This project does not seek to catalog every allegation of corruption in specific countries. Rather, the entries gathered for this Tracker provide a representative sample of the methods used by the Russian and Chinese governments and their proxies to fund interference in transatlantic democracies
Civil society subversion is the hijacking or co-option of foreign social movements, organizations, diaspora communities, advocacy groups, or other civil society entities through non-transparent or seditious means to amplify political and social cleavages, promote extremism, or otherwise divide target societies.
Cases of civil society subversion are included if they are perpetrated by individuals or entities linked to the Russian or Chinese governments, their ruling parties, or their proxies. Cases included provide representative examples of how civil society subversion undermines democratic institutions or processes.
The use of commercial, financial, or other economic tools and resources for foreign political purposes, including to establish dependencies that influence foreign governments, entities, or individuals.
Cases of economic coercion are included if they are perpetrated by the Russian or Chinese governments, their ruling parties, their state-owned enterprises, or their purportedly private enterprises used to carry out foreign policy objectives. Cases included are representative examples of how economic coercion undermines democratic institutions or processes.
Explore the original Authoritarian Interference Tracker Dashboard.
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