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China Expands Global Authoritarian Influence Efforts: Some Fragile Democracies Show Resilience Against CCP Aggression

February 3, 2021

Washington, D.C. – A new report from the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Building Resiliency for Interconnected Democracies in Global Environments (BRIDGE) initiative, A World Safe for the Party: China’s Authoritarian Influence and the Democratic Response, analyzes influence tactics the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has leveraged to protect its global interests and export its authoritarian model worldwide.

“The Chinese Communist Party has expanded its influence in vulnerable countries, relying on economic leverage and information manipulation to shape views and policy toward China,” said David Shullman, IRI Senior Advisor and editor of the report. “These efforts weaken democratic institutions while supporting illiberal actors and ideals.”

A World Safe for the Party includes country case studies on Nepal, Georgia, Greece and Montenegro, with in-depth analyses of Kenya and Panama. Each study exposes the impact of CCP influence operations on fragile democracies across the globe.

Together with 13 case studies on Chinese malign influence contained in IRI’s June 2019 report, Chinese Malign Influence and the Corrosion of Democracy, this research reveals the different methods by which China undermines democracy around the world.

“Though economic leverage remains central to the CCP’s influence, the Party has become increasingly resolute in its manipulation of the information space,” added Shullman. “Through coercion, retaliation and propaganda, the CCP is making aggressive attempts to bolster its image and defend against foreign and domestic criticism.”

While Beijing’s “wolf warrior” approach has attempted to thwart negative coverage of China, particularly around the initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic and human rights abuses, it has also motivated civil society groups to ban together in resistance.

“Despite CCP scare tactics, the case studies in this report suggest growing democratic resilience in nearly all regions of the world,” said IRI President Daniel Twining. “Equipped with this research, both governments and citizens can continue resisting the tide of authoritarianism in pursuit of a world where democratic institutions thrive and political freedoms are respected.”

The BRIDGE initiative, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, works to bolster democratic resilience to foreign authoritarian influence. By increasing awareness of authoritarian tactics and equipping stakeholders with the tools and resources to overcome them, BRIDGE programming supports at-risk countries to safeguard democratic institutions and advance their democratic development.

For the report’s key findings, read the executive summary, or review the full report for more information.