Source: Anne-Mary Brady, New Zealand, draws on 30 years of research into China

Chinese interference falls into four categories:

  1. Efforts to control the Chinese diaspora, to utilise them as agents of Chinese foreign policy and suppress any hints of dissent.
  2. Efforts to coopt foreigners to support and promote the CCP’s foreign policy goals and access information and technical knowledge.
  3. Promotion of a global, multi-platform, strategic communication strategy aimed at promoting China’s agenda and suppressing critical perspectives on the CCP and its policies.
  4. Rolling out of the China-centred economic, transport and communications strategic bloc known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

1. Efforts to control the Chinese diaspora

Some of the Key Agencies

  1. The CCP United Front Work Department and within it the State Council Overseas Chinese Office,
  2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
  3. Ministry of State Security,
  4. PLA military intelligence,
  5. Chinese People’s Consultative Conference,
  6. the Zhigong Party,
  7. the China Association for Promoting Democracy,
  8. the Federation of Industry and Commerce, and
  9. the so-called “democratic” parties within the CCP-led political system whose main function is united front work.


  • Exert control over Chinese diaspora individuals and groups in order to “turn them into propaganda bases for China”. 
  • Establish Chinese diaspora organisations that report directly to the CCP. The most well- known of these groups is the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, which has branches all over the world
  • Use of diplomatic cover for united front work. The CCP has a long tradition of party and government personnel “double-hatting”; holding roles within multiple agencies. PRC diplomats are tasked with united front activities outside China, working with foreign politicians and other high profile individuals, Chinese community associations, and student associations, and sponsoring Chinese language, media, and cultural activities. Chinese consulates and embassies relay CCP instructions to diaspora Chinese community groups and the Chinese language media and they host visits of high-level CCP delegations coming to meet with local Chinese diaspora groups.
  • Utilise PRC embassy staff and local united front organisations, to control the diaspora community by setting and policing the boundaries on what constitutes Chinese culture. 
  • Control and monitor overseas ethnic Chinese students and scholars—regardless of their passports—by means of the Chinese Student and Scholars Association. In countries where this organisation is publicly identified as a united front organisation, promote organisations such as the Western Overseas Scholars Association.
  • Insert CCP-supported diaspora political and business leaders into their home political systems as candidates and donors ; pressure foreign-based diaspora politicians already in government to promote CCP policies and provide information on the policies of the governments they represent. While it is completely normal and to be encouraged that the Chinese diaspora in each country seek political representation; the initiative to insert the CCP’s own representatives within foreign political systems is separate from that spontaneous and natural development.
  • Impose CCP censorship controls over the Chinese diaspora media . This policy was formalised in 2017, though it has been the unwritten rule for at least 20 years. Regardless of who owns a foreign Chinese language media outlet or China- focused media outlet, it must now conform to CCP censorship guidelines or it will be forced to close by means of intimidation such as removal of advertising or vexatious court cases. For public sector Chinese-language media platforms such as VOA Chinese or BBC Chinese, the means of control appears to be via targeting key personnel for co- option or pressure. Among the few exceptions to this situation are the Falungong’s media outlets and Vision Times in Australia which remain independent.
  • Popularise the use of Chinese social media app Wechat , and payment platforms Wechat Pay and Alipay public and private accounts in foreign countries. Wechat now makes up 34 percent of all online traffic in China. The outcome of the widespread adoption of Wechat outside China is the creation of a backdoor means to control China-related discourse in foreign countries through self-censorship, monitoring of content, and the threat of closing down foreign Wechat accounts that do not comply.

2. Foreign elite capture

The CCP has a comprehensive strategy to target foreign economic and political elites, in order to get them to promote China’s foreign policy agenda within their own political system, to encourage them to relay information on foreign government intentions, strategies and the attitude of key actors towards China, as well as to provide access to cutting edge technology.

Some of the Key Agencies

  1. Ministry of Education,
  2. CCP International Liaison Department,
  3. Ministry of State Security,
  4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
  5. Local governments,
  6. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs),
  7. Major PRC corporations
  8. Some foreign-based Chinese owned corporations,
  9. Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries,
  10. Hanban and the Confucius Institutes,
  11. Chinese People’s Institute for Foreign Affairs,
  12. China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICR),
  13. Other such CCP front organisations.


  • Nurture international foreign political party links via the CCP’s International Liaison Department. Utilise former senior foreign politicians as bridges to current governments, offer them access to the CCP leadership for business opportunities and vanity projects in return for supporting China’s policies, information, or at the very least, silence on critical issues. Appoint foreigners with access to political power to directorships in Chinese companies such as PRC banks or SOEs in the host country.
  • “Use the local to surround the centre” : utilise sister-city relations, local government investment schemes, and connections with indigenous groups to influence central governments and promote China’s agenda. Local governments and indigenous authorities have decision-making power over key resources such as water and land use and for establishing infrastructure projects.
  • Utilise foreign politicians, academics, and entrepreneurs to promote China’s national interest in the media and academia or at the very least, not raise a critical view. This is called “using foreign strength to promote China” . Build up asset relationships with susceptible individuals via China-based political hospitality at all- expenses-paid conferences, paid talks, paid and unpaid ‘advisory” roles and consultancies. Prominent “advisors” can get as much as US$150,000 per annum just for being affiliated to PRC entities. If necessary, compromise prominent individuals via: hacking of devices used while in China, bribery, honey traps, or use intimidation tactics such as denial of visas to China.
  • Use mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships with foreign companies, universities, and research centres to acquire local identities that enhance political influence activities, provide access to military technology, commercial secrets, and other strategic information. Create economic dependencies in susceptible economies via preferential terms of trade or directed mass tourism. Use access to the China market as a lever to intimidate foreign central and local governments. Use Chinese companies to promote this message.

3. Shape the global narratives about China

The government’s go-global, multi-platform, international strategic communication strategy aims to control international perceptions about China and the policies of the CCP government . All forms of mass communication are utilised, from films and advertising, to new media and academic and non-academic publications. 

Some of the Key Agencies

  1. The State Council Information Office,
  2. CCP Central Propaganda Department,
  3. Xinhua News Service,
  4. CGTN,
  5. China Radio International,
  6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
  7. Ministry of Education,
  8. Ministry of Culture, and
  9. Other relevant state organs.


  • China’s media companies are engaging in strategic mergers and acquisitions of foreign media and cultural enterprises in order to control the global China narrative. This policy is known as “buying a boat to go out on the ocean” . This policy has made major inroads into Hollywood production, casting, and film distribution. New Zealand and Australia’s main cinema chain, Hoyts, is owned by Dalian Wanda, which also owns 636 cinemas in the USA.
  • Offer business opportunities to foreign media and culture companies which enables them to access the China market, but requires them to follow its guidelines. This has an impact on their products in other markets too, because if a production company makes a television show, advertisement, or film which portrays China in an unfavourable way— even if it will only be shown outside China—this could affect access for products they hope to sell in the China market. In academic publishing this has resulted in academic publishers having to cull their journal and book offerings to remove content critical of China in materials they make available for the China market. For publishers who print books in China—most photographic books are now printed in China for cost-saving reasons—they cannot print any books which break Chinese censorship guidelines. An example of this is world maps which show Taiwan as a separate entity by painting its landmass a different colour than that used for the Chinese Mainland. This is forbidden even if the books they appear in are not destined for the China market.
  • Get China’s political language and talking points inserted into international public discourse. For example, raising concerns about China’s behaviour is classed as: “anti- China) , “demonising China”  “China threat” , “Cold War thinking” , “McCarthyism” , “xenophobia”  or “(racial) prejudice” .
  • Establish strategic partnerships with foreign newspapers, TV, and radio stations, to provide them with free content incorporating the CCP-authorised line for China-related news and ensure that the international media follows the Chinese media in “telling a good story of China” . This includes, People’s Daily and China Daily inserts, “content sharing” between companies like AP and Xinhua News service, and Chinese companies such as Huawei offering subsidies to foreign media and cultural companies. This is the policy known as “borrowing a boat to go out on the ocean” .
  • Use foreign think tanks to shape foreign policy and public opinion on China issues in China’s favour. The Chinese government and affiliated united front actors have made a massive investment in setting up pro-China think tanks and research centres to promote the CCP’s agenda and collect information on the intentions of other nations. In addition, provide donations to leading think tanks internationally in order to promote a pro-CCP line, mute critical voices, and cultivate political elites. Offer generous strings-attached academic research funding through the Confucius Institutes and other China-connected funding bodies in order to set the boundaries of China analysis and debates in academia.
  • Promote a CCP-defined notion of Chinese culture and language internationally through Confucius Institutes, cultural centres, and festivals such as “Chinese New Year”  and it is celebrated elsewhere in Asia as the Lunar New Year). This serves to marginalise groups such as Uighurs, Tibetans, democracy activists, Falungong followers, Taiwan culture and society all of which, from the CCP’s perspective have the potential to divide China and threaten the CCP’s monopoly on power.

4. A China-centred political and economic order

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR), builds on, and greatly extends, the “going out”  policy launched in 1999 in the Jiang era and continued into the Hu era, which encouraged public-private partnerships between Chinese SOEs and Chinese Red Capitalists in China and overseas in order to acquire global natural resource assets and seek international infrastructure projects. BRI connects into China’s informatisation strategy, which amongst other things, requires global partners to host China’s Beidou GPS ground stations that will enable China to establish fully global C4ISR capabilities. This is an aspect of the “Digital Silk Road”.


  1. National Development and Reform Commission (lead agency),
  2. State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council,
  3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
  4. Oher relevant state agencies,
  5. Chinese SOEs,
  6. Red Capitalists,
  7. Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.


  • Use BRI to stimulate China’s secure access to strategic natural resources and strategic sites to create forward-based military installations.
  • Set up trade zones, ports, and digital communications infrastructure that connects back to China, creating a China-centred political, digital, and economic order.
  • Get foreign governments to do the work of promoting China’s BRI to their own citizens and neighbouring states (another version of “borrowing a boat”).
  • Work closely with local government and indigenous leaders on BRI projects. Local governments and indigenous communities such as Native Americans in the USA and Canada, Sami, Inuit and other Arctic peoples, and Māori in New Zealand, control considerable natural resources and can influence planning decisions at the local and national level.
  • Offer governments who sign up to BRI privileged access to the Chinese market. This is a double-edged sword, because increased access means increased dependency and more levers that China can use against states which seek to maintain an independent foreign policy as part of their approach to relations with the PRC and other great powers.

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