By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is expanding its influence and attempting to undermine democratic traditions across continents and push its agenda including in India’s neighbourhood, alleged a new study by US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) that examined Beijing’s strategy in 13 countries.
“China has engaged with countries throughout the developing world for decades, primarily seeking critical resource needs and new markets for its rapidly growing economy. Yet in recent years, Beijing is taking a significantly more aggressive approach to advancing its expanding interests in developing countries, leveraging unprecedented levels of influence to achieve its desired political and economic ends,” according to the recently released study by IRI that examined Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Pakistan among 13 countries.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), however, is employing a unique set of tactics in the economic and information domains that undermines many developing countries’ democratic institutions and future prosperity as their dependence on China grows, the study alleged.
“First, China has rapidly increased the use of its influence tactics in these two domains. Second, uninformed observers are particularly likely to perceive these efforts as innocuous and on par with those employed by democracies. China’s leveraging of growing political and security ties across the developing world complements and bolsters these efforts. Despite growing recognition of the risks of engagement with China, there has been little in-depth research on China’s means of influence and the response to such efforts in individual countries,” the study said.
In an effort to address this gap and inform efforts to bolster resilience to foreign authoritarian influence, the International Republican Institute (IRI) enlisted researchers in 12 vulnerable democracies around the world to study the nature of CCP influence and the determinants of democratic resilience to CCP tactics.
The report consists of research findings on Cambodia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Ecuador, Zambia, Mongolia, Hungary, The Gambia, Myanmar, Malaysia and the Maldives. The report concludes with Australia’s experience, included because of that country’s valuable lessons for developing democracies that have already encountered similar levels of CCP interference or soon may.
“The CCP — which systematically suppresses political pluralism and free expression in China — is increasingly attempting to use similar practices abroad to manipulate internal political and information environments to its own benefit. China’s preference for opaque, corrupt economic deals corrodes democratic institutions and leaves countries increasingly beholden to their Chinese creditors,” the study noted.
From Europe to West Africa, China’s malign influence corrodes developing countries’ democracies, undermines their independence, and presents a daunting and novel strategic challenge to the United States and the rules-based, liberal democratic order, the report claimed.