Washington, D.C. — China is working to transform the global order and, within individual nations, exerting political influence to tilt economic and political playing fields in its favor, according to a new report and issue brief from the Center for American Progress.
The report shows how China seeks to replace the current global governance system, which favors liberal democratic values and standards, with an alternative vision based on authoritarian governance principles in which state power determines whose interests prevail.
“From a liberal democratic perspective, if Beijing succeeds in bringing about that vision, the world will be less free, less prosperous, and less safe,” said Melanie Hart, lead author of the report.
Democracies still have leverage to shape the direction of China’s new activism, the report finds. But using that leverage requires these nations to figure out what they stand for and how to create more space within the international governance system for China and other developing nations without ceding ground on fundamental principles. Under President Donald Trump’s leadership, however, the United States has withdrawn to the point where China is stepping in to fill a leadership vacuum. If the United States does not reengage and find common purpose with other democratic nations, China will bring about a major shift in the global governance system.
The issue brief shows how China’s influence operations abroad have centered around projecting legitimacy by building leverage points over governments, institutions, businesses, and individuals that China can wield when needed. This includes funneling money to prominent politicians and individuals, pressuring American universities over how they portray China, stealing intellectual property, and silencing critics through kidnappings, harassment, and forced extraditions.
The brief compares China’s tactics with the more overt efforts of Russia, which has openly sought to sow discord and promote corruption in democratic societies. Russia has exerted its influence by engaging in disinformation campaigns, exploiting social media platforms, using its network of corrupt oligarchs, offering financial support to fringe political movements, and carrying out extrajudicial killings and attacks.
Read the report: “Mapping China’s Global Governance Ambitions” by Melanie Hart and Blaine Johnson.
Read the issue brief: “Understanding and Combating Russian and Chinese Influence Operations” by Carolyn Kenney, Max Bergmann, and James Lamond.
For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at email@example.com or 202.478.6327.