According to a report released by Freedom House, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is advancing its multibillion-dollar global campaign to use “covert, coercive, and potentially corrupt” ways to influence public opinion through mass media as well as maintain both its overseas policy priorities and its power in China. However, local journalists, civil society activists, governments, and news consumers are pushing back by “ensuring diversity of coverage, exposing coercive behavior and disinformation campaigns, and instilling both vigilance and resilience in a new generation.”
In the report, Beijing’s Global Media Influence: Authoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience, authors Sarah Cook, Angeli Datt, Ellie Young, and BC Han draw upon media investigations, interviews, scholarly publications, Chinese government sources, and their own on-the-ground research in order to present in-depth case studies of the effects of influence tactics in 30 countries that possess relatively strong institutional protections for media freedom.
Overall, all 30 countries exhibited at least one vulnerability, but each one demonstrated some level of pushback to reduce Beijing’s media influence upon them, like discontinued news partnerships or public rejection of intimidation or propaganda. The authors made recommendations to further strengthen democratic defenses against continued CCP interference, such as protecting and expanding independent coverage of China, imposing penalties for transgressions by Chinese officials, documenting and raising awareness of CCP influence efforts, and investing resources to counter online disinformation.
The authors have hope for the future, expressing that:
Long-term success will require further action—including investments of financial and human capital, creativity, and innovation—to defend media independence against both foreign and domestic pressures. But despite fears about the supposed efficiency of autocratic models, the findings of this study offer substantial evidence that the core components of democracy are capable of insulating free societies against Beijing’s authoritarian influence.