Sinposis, a Czech website covering Chinese foreign policy, has published a detailed report examining Chinese efforts to shape policy and public opinion by influencing elite figures across Italy’s political spectrum. According to the Sinopsis report:
November 20, 2021 Recent controversy on the overt alignment of some senior Italian politicians with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking points has attracted overdue attention, yet failed to expose the broader phenomenon behind it: the party’s centrally-guided efforts to shape policy and public opinion by influencing élite figures across Italy’s political spectrum, an instance of its global influence work. This paper provides the first overview of the Italian activity of external influence agencies across the systems that compose the CCP-led apparatus, including three case studies that illustrate multi-system operations targeting Italian politics from the national to the municipal level. The CCP International Liaison Department (ILD), the Chinese Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), as well as units in the party’s propaganda and united front systems and fronts linked to intelligence agencies, the cases show, are key actors in efforts to coopt parliamentarians, political parties, local officials and mainstream voices in think tanks and the media. Using politicians, lobbyists and other local intermediaries as proxies, these operations repurpose democratic institutions as instruments of CCP policy. Vague appeals to ‘friendship’, ‘culture’ and trade help enlist mainstream, often CCP-critical figures as unwitting endorsers of a discourse-engineering endeavour: the installation of propaganda memes that normalise the CCP’s totalitarian rule and global expansion. Surrendering policy-making creativity to this new common sense, parliamentary circles have relayed propaganda whitewashing the party’s human rights abuses, while local governments joined a ‘Belt and Road’-themed network set up by a CCP influence agency.
Read the full report here.
The Sinopsis report identifies the following organizations and companies as Chinese influence organizations in Italy:
- The Parliamentary Italy-China Friendship Association
- The Institute for Chinese Culture (Istituto per la Cultura Cinese, ICC)
- The Italy-China Link Association
- OpenGate China
According to the report, China’s communist party uses these influence organizations to influence Italian politics across ideological divides and at the national, regional, provincial, and municipal levels, largely evading the public attention that accompanied displays of CCP-alignment by a few high-profile figures.