In an article titled “China’s Influence Operations Fall Flat in Central and Eastern Europe,” Council on Foreign Relations scholar Joshua Kurlantzick argues that China has seen its soft power in Central and Eastern Europe decline during the past three years. The following is a Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) summary of the article:
Beijing has increased its efforts to wield authority within other countries, including many liberal democracies, despite China’s proclaimed non-interference foreign policy norm. This has been accomplished through a variety of methods, such as formal diplomacy, public message, leveraging ties with local media, blatant bribery of officials, economic aid, and coercion. Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has been a prominent target for China’s influence operations over the past decade. Beijing’s good relations with several CEE governments dated back to the Cold War, and the majority of these nations had previously taken a neutral stance on the developing competition between the United States and China. Beijing has nurtured influential politicians in the region, such as the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, and strengthened links with regional media through training programs for journalists and content-sharing agreements with Chinese state media. European politicians have focused primarily on recognizing and resisting Russian influence, as opposed to Chinese actions in CEE. China also poured money into building infrastructure in the region, particularly vital telecommunications equipment, for which several CEE states have disregarded warnings from the United States and other democracies not to use Chinese corporations. Therefore, Beijing’s activities have received considerably less attention than Putin’s Russia’s. Yet, in spite of these attempts to establish links with regional leaders and institutions, Beijing has eroded its soft power in Central and Eastern Europe during the past three years, resulting in a deterioration of relations. Most notably, this is owing to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s apparent backing for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine, which has alienated the majority of CEE nations. Prior to the Russian invasion, however, attitudes toward China had already begun to turn significantly negative in many European nations, including the CEE.
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GIOR reported in August 2022 on a US Army study which found that Latin American views on China were becoming more negative despite its leveraging of soft power instruments.