The People’s Republic of China maintains a strategy of political, communicational, academic, military and economic penetration in the countries with which it interacts until it achieves a level of influence in all sectors of a society, according to a study called “China Index” which analyzed data from 82 countries in nine regions from March 2021 to March 2022 and was presented last December.
The study is an initiative of Doublethink Lab, a civil society organization dedicated to studying the malign influence of Chinese digital authoritarianism. The methodology combines a diverse set of research approaches in the social, behavioral, and computational sciences to study PRC-funded propaganda campaigns that often manifest themselves in psychological warfare and massive operations disinformation Worldwide.
The China Index is a reference tool that seeks to improve global understanding and awareness of the influence of the People’s Republic of China, particularly for academics, the media, civil society networks, and politicians.
The index captures the influence of the People’s Republic of China in nine areas: academia, national politics, economy, foreign policy, law enforcement, media, military, society and technology. Each of these areas contains eleven indicators that correspond to an observable phenomenon of PRC influence and present comparable data collected by regional partners through collaboration with local experts.
“We’ve talked about China’s influence operations for years, but we really need an index, a basis for talking about China’s operations, so we thought we’d have an objective way that we can send this kind of message, saying hey, this is region, this country has been influenced by China in these fields and in these ways”, explains the Taiwanese academic Cougar Shen, president of Doublethink Lab and vice president of the Taiwan Human Rights Association in an interview with Public File.
“So it’s about collaboration, creating public awareness and people learning about Chinese interference operations in the world and trying to build the counter-narrative and see what we can do collaboratively in the future,” Shen stresses.
How the index is measured
The China Index collected data from 82 countries in nine regions from March 2021 to March 2022. doublethink worked with nine regional partners to manage the research: The National Bureau Of Asian Studies, Rayyan Hassan, Civic IDEA, Sinopsis, Code for Africa, Fundación Andrés Bello, Centro de Investigación Chino Latinoamericano, Data Privacy Brasil, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and Martin Thorely . Doublethink also conducted research in several countries.
Regional partners and local experts are academics or practitioners with expertise in specific domains, independent journalists or nonpartisan researchers, think tanks or civil society organizations, or community leaders. They do not work for or receive compensation from a political party in their own country, nor do they receive funding from political parties within the countries they cover for the Index.
The China Index employs a series of fact-based indicators to test for the existence of observable PRC-influenced phenomena. Local experts must provide documentary evidence when responding to the positive existence of influence phenomena. Overall scores are determined by adding the equally weighted responses of all indicators.
Most of the indicators measure a country’s exposure to a mechanism of influence of the People’s Republic of China, for example, economic dependence, collaboration or receive some kind of benefit. Some indicators ask about the Pressure overtly applied through these PRC influence mechanisms, for example, threatening a economic punishment to provoke or prevent a political decision that could be adverse to Chinese interests.
Other indicators ask about the observable effect produced through mechanisms of influence or changes in decision-making in favor of the interests of the PRC, for example, the relaxation of trade regulations to facilitate inward investment from the PRC.
These three layers form a causal chain, from exposure through pressure to effect, capturing the PRC’s process of influence.
Among the 10 countries that the China Index identifies as pockets of its greatest influence are eight nations in the close neighborhood of the People’s Republic of China: Pakistan, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Malaysia. But there are two countries outside of Southeast Asia or Central Asia that stand out on the list: Peru Y South Africa.
Peru is in fifth place in the table, tied with South Africa.
The Peruvian case is highly striking because it is The country that seems most co-opted by China in Latin America, even more than Venezuela or Bolivia, whose governments are usually ideological allies of the Asian giant. Venezuela appears in position 25 and Bolivia in position 60 of the China index.
The Peruvian case
Peru is the Latin American country that appears with the highest measurement of influence of the People’s Republic of China and the fifth among the 82 countries evaluated in the world.
Peru appears with a vulnerability score of 62 to the influence of China – where the maximum possible is 100 – in terms of economic dependence, or the receipt of some type of benefit.
Peru and China have diplomatic relations since 1971 and since then, the Asians have come to establish media outlets that belong to the Global Network of Chinese Media. Its influence is such that even the state news agency ANDEAN uses the Chinese state agency as a news source XINHUA.
According to the report, in Peru, there are journalists, media organizations or online influencers who have attended all-expenses-paid media tours in the People’s Republic of China and have received training from state media or entities connected to that country.
There are also cases of “local media outlets wholly or partly owned by PRC citizens or corporations and outlets delivering cheap or free content provided by Chinese state-funded outlets,” the index explains.
The China Index 2022 also points out that “in Peru there are also media outlets that they censor views critical of the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Insight into the Academy
According to the China Index 2022, at the Academy, Peruvian universities have established research partnerships with entities connected to the PRC (for example, Huawei, Tencent either Alibaba). It is also actively working Confucius Institutea Chinese state entity that promotes the Chinese language and culture.
In the South American country there are even academic research centers that belong to networks/associations affiliated with China and it is usual for academics to make trips to China paid for by people or entities related to that country.
The entities connected with the People’s Republic of China they have been involved in the design of Peruvian school or university curricula, such as courses on East Asian history, modern politics, etc.
The report highlights that China is the number one trading partner and main client of the Peruvian extractive industries. In addition, China-related entities substantially own, operate, or control critical infrastructure (for example, ports, power plants, digital data centers, etc.) or sensitive sectors (biotechnology, raw materials, etc.)
“Peru has a free trade agreement with China and regulatory restrictions have been relaxed or removed, or they have established special economic zones (or free trade zones, industrial parks, etc.) to attract investment or economic participation from the PRC,” explains the China Index 2022.
This nation also joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Dependency also includes security and the relationship with military. Peru imports or receives in-kind donations of military or police equipment or equipment components from the People’s Republic of China. In addition, the People’s Liberation Army (EPL) has participated in a humanitarian aid and disaster assistance effort and the Peruvian military has received professional Chinese military education.
“Peru also cooperates with the PLA in military exchange exercises, including drills and war games, and the South American country’s government has implemented PRC Internet or video surveillance systems for law enforcement,” the Index notes. of china 2022.
China currently has an extradition treaty, mutual legal assistance, or other similar arrangements with China, and there are reports of cyberattacks targeting the government, critical infrastructure, or businesses suspected of originating from China.
The China Index indicates that in Peru it has also been common for politicians or government employees to carry out trips to China paid by people or entities related to that country, there they meet with officials of the People’s Republic of China and groups of experts.
It is also common for the Peruvian government to accept justice and law enforcement related training offered to China-related individuals or entities.
China also provides training to diplomats or public officials on the governance of the country “and there are reports of politicians or government employees having been pressed by PRC diplomats to change their political or diplomatic stances,” according to the China Index 2022.
Finally, the China index mentions that Peruvian telecommunications companies have signed agreements to adopt hardware or technical specifications of 4G or 5G cellular networks produced or developed by Huawei, ZTE or other companies in the People’s Republic of China.
“Peruvian telecommunications companies have adopted hardware or technical specifications from entities connected to the People’s Republic of China in infrastructure projects for Internet/wifi/telecommunications services, in addition to the cellular network 4G/5G”the report states.
Even entities connected to the People’s Republic of China are authorized suppliers to supply technology-related equipment or services to Peruvian government, military or security services.
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