China’s sharp power billions seek ‘consent’


Amid ongoing efforts by the Taiwanese authorities to stem a roiling tide of Chinese money and disinformation aimed at influencing Taiwan’s January presidential elections, the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday indicted members of the Taiwan People’s Communist Party, RFA reports:

A day later, National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen warned Taiwan’s legislature that Beijing’s methods of interference in the elections have also diversified, including manipulating public opinion polls and packaging false information as reports from international media. The developments came just days after the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center issued a report warning that China is engaged in a global campaign of disinformation, throwing billions of dollars at furthering Beijing’s aims and burying all criticism of its policies.

According to Ryan Fedasiuk, a Non-Resident State Department Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, based on information from more than 160 budget and expense reports from national and regional PRC government and Communist Party entities “organizations central to China’s national and regional United Front systems spent more than US$2.6 billion in 2019.” That’s more money than China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs got, according to Fedasiuk.

National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

A recent report from the Taiwan Information Environment Research Center (IORG) said the CCP is responsible for some 84% of conspiracy theories and disinformation narratives that aim to shape a worldview that aligns with its interests.

“Skepticism towards the U.S. can be understood as an authoritarian regime’s attempt to create dissent against its competitors,” Huang Jaw-nian, assistant professor at National Chengchi University, told RFA Mandarin. “From China’s perspective, it crafts ‘dissent against the U.S.’ and covertly infuses agreement with China.” RTWT

Repressive governments like China’s have worked to undermine mechanisms that are meant to ensure accountability for human rights abuses and to transform the United Nations, its related bodies, and other international institutions into fora for mutual praise, the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum adds. Both the Chinese Communist Party and the Kremlin are working to subvert human rights norms, peddle favorable narratives, and oppose resolutions examining their poor human rights records. Democratic societies must rally behind the global human rights system and ensure that it remains capable of assisting activists and victims around the world.   

International Forum report author and senior fellow with the Robert S. Strauss Center at The University of Texas at Austin, Rana Siu Inboden, and China Director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, sat down with Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy, to discuss this crucial challenge to global democratic integrity. 

This podcast was adapted from a launch event for Dr. Inboden’s report, “Defending the Human Rights System from Authoritarian Assault: How Democracies Can Retake the Initiative,” published by the Forum. To watch the full event, visit the NED’s YouTube channel. 

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