China Is Wielding Growing Influence Inside Other Countries, Argues Joshua Kurlantzick in New Book

China Is Wielding Growing Influence Inside Other Countries, Argues Joshua Kurlantzick in New Book

December 1, 2022 1:11 pm (EST)

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Motivated by its growing power, increasingly authoritarian domestic politics, and an ever more assertive foreign policy, China, for the first time in decades, “has dramatically increased its efforts to wield power within other countries,” writes Joshua Kurlantzick in Beijing’s Global Media Offensive: China’s Uneven Campaign to Influence Asia and the World.    

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To achieve its objective, China is building a formidable “influence apparatus” with a toolkit that includes expanding state media outlets, spreading disinformation on international social media platforms, wooing foreign politicians, and offering “educational” and “training” programs in other countries. 

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These expanding global influence campaigns create several potential dangers for the United States and democratic countries. “As China’s influence efforts become more effective, they could serve to keep closed, authoritarian societies in place and to promote China’s authoritarian model across the world,” writes Kurlantzick. Beijing’s efforts could also help sustain the ruling Communist Party at home, allow China to strengthen alliances with other autocracies like Russia, and undermine press freedoms, human rights, and democracy across the globe. 

Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), underscores that China’s autocratic model “appears attractive to some other states in part because so many large democracies today are struggling—with economic meltdowns, poor national leadership, hyper-partisanship, weakening civil societies and shrinking media sectors, economic inequality, and a loss of trust in political systems.”   

The Xi Jinping administration has “made improving China’s media directed toward the world, including Europe and the United States, a high priority,” Kurlantzick explains. Indeed, Xi wants to build a media and information superpower, and Beijing has invested massive sums in upgrading its state media and gaining control of local media in other countries. As Kurlantzick notes, “the Chinese government’s funding for state media dwarfs that of any other country’s state media funding, including the United States.” 

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China’s actions have often failed, leading to considerable backlash in many countries. But Beijing remains undeterred. Drawing lessons from several case studies—including the United States, where China has become the biggest spender of any country on foreign influence activities—Kurlantzick examines how China has upgraded “its ability to penetrate other states with sharp power, like the coercion of other countries’ media, politicians, and universities.”  

As the Chinese government uses formal diplomacy and information and media tools to broadcast democracy’s failures, “the United States, and other leading countries, should reassure the world that they are recommitted to the institutions and norms of global governance, to strengthening democracy at home, and to showing that democratic states can deliver global public goods.” 

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Read more about Beijing’s Global Media Offensive and order your copy at cfr.org/beijingmedia.

To request an interview, please contact Joshua Kurlantzick at [email protected] and CFR Communications at [email protected]

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