by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
China and Russia have spent billions of dollars over the past decade on state-run propaganda campaigns disguised as commercial ventures in an effort to shape public opinion and policy debates in democracies around the world, according to a new report by the National Endowment for Democracy.
To accomplish this, Beijing and Moscow have deployed a diverse array of tools, including people-to-people exchanges, cultural activities, educational programs, and the development of media enterprises with global reach.
These methods have become a key element of Chinese and Russian foreign policy, particularly in their efforts to project “sharp power” abroad.
Unlike the Cold War-era tactics of “soft power,” based on attraction and the positive appeal of political ideals, or the projection of “hard power” by military force, sharp power entails a degree of stealth and centers on distraction and manipulation.
In the past decade, China, for example, has invested tens of billions of dollars in an expanding network of Confucius Institutes, which are embedded in universities to teach Chinese language and culture while propagating communist viewpoints.
During the same period, the Kremlin launched a multibillion-dollar overseas campaign to improve its image abroad through the expansion of Russian state media, increased support for state-affiliated policy institutes, and the building of its capacity to manipulate content online.