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French Military Says Chinese Influence Operations Have Become Tougher; Now Resemble Russian Methods

January 19th, 2022 15:32

The Strate­gic Research Insti­tute of the French Mil­i­tary Col­lege (IRSEM), affil­i­at­ed with the French mil­i­tary, has recent­ly pub­lished a 654-pages study on glob­al Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions, argu­ing that they have become con­sid­er­ably tougher in recent years and more close­ly resem­bling Russ­ian meth­ods Accord­ing to the IRSEM study:

Jan­u­ary 2022 For a long time, it could be said that Chi­na, unlike Rus­sia, sought to be loved rather than feared; that it want­ed to seduce and project a pos­i­tive image of itself in the world, or to inspire admi­ra­tion. Today, Bei­jing has not renounced to seduce, nor its over­all attrac­tive­ness and its ambi­tion to shape inter­na­tion­al stan­dards, and it is essen­tial for the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty not to lose face. And yet, Bei­jing is also increas­ing­ly com­fort­able with infil­tra­tion and coer­cion: its influ­ence oper­a­tions have become con­sid­er­ably tougher in recent years and its meth­ods are resem­bling more close­ly the ones employed by Moscow. This is a “Machi­avel­lian turn” inas­much as the Par­ty-State now seems to believe that “it is much safer to be feared than to be loved,” in the words of Machi­avel­li in The Prince. This is a clear Rus­si­fi­ca­tion of Chi­nese influ­ence operations.

This report delves into this evo­lu­tion, with the ambi­tion to cov­er the whole specter of influ­ence, from the most benign (pub­lic diplo­ma­cy) to the most malign meth­ods, that is, inter­fer­ence (clan­des­tine activ­i­ties). To do that, the report is divid­ed into four parts: suc­ces­sive­ly lay­ing out the main con­cepts; the actors imple­ment­ing these oper­a­tions, includ­ing the Base 311 of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army; the actions con­duct­ed by Bei­jing toward the dias­po­ras, the media, diplo­ma­cy, econ­o­my, pol­i­tics, edu­ca­tion, think tanks, and in terms of infor­ma­tion manip­u­la­tions – some levers among oth­ers; then, sev­er­al cas­es are stud­ied (Tai­wan, Sin­ga­pore, Swe­den, Cana­da, the oper­a­tions that tar­get­ed Hong Kong pro­tes­tors in 2019, and the one that brand­ed the Covid-19 as an Amer­i­can fab­ri­ca­tion in 2020). The con­clu­sion returns to this “Rus­si­fi­ca­tion”, which has three com­po­nents: Bei­jing is inspired by Moscow in sev­er­al ways, there are obvi­ous­ly dif­fer­ences between the two, and there is also a cer­tain degree of coop­er­a­tion. Final­ly, the report assess­es the effec­tive­ness of this new Chi­nese pos­ture, which can boast some tac­ti­cal suc­cess­es, but con­sti­tutes a strate­gic failure.

Read the full study here.

The study says Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions have two pri­ma­ry and non-mutu­al­ly exclu­sive objec­tives: To seduce and cap­ti­vate for­eign audi­ences and to infil­trate and coerce. Accord­ing to the IRSEM study:

First, to seduce and cap­ti­vate for­eign audi­ences by craft­ing a pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Chi­na, which can be illus­trat­ed by four spe­cif­ic nar­ra­tives (the Chi­nese “mod­el,” its tra­di­tion, benev­o­lence, and strength); and then, and above all, to infil­trate and coerce. Infil­tra­tion aims at slow­ly pen­e­trat­ing the oppos­ing soci­eties to ham­per the very pos­si­bil­i­ty of an action con­trary to the Party’s inter­ests. Coer­cion cor­re­sponds to the pro­gres­sive enlarge­ment of the Chi­nese “puni­tive” or “coer­cive” diplo­ma­cy toward a pol­i­cy of sys­tem­at­ic sanc­tions against any state, orga­ni­za­tion, com­pa­ny, or indi­vid­ual that threat­ens the Party’s interests.

The study iden­ti­fies the pri­ma­ry tar­gets for Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions as:

  • Dias­po­ras
  • Media
  • Diplo­ma­cy
  • Econ­o­my
  • Pol­i­tics
  • Edu­ca­tion
  • Think Tanks
  • Cul­ture
  • Infor­ma­tion Manipulation

The new­ly released IRSEM study is the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the French-lan­guage ver­sion titled “Les Opéra­tions D’Influence Chi­nois” and pub­lished last fall. The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed in Octo­ber 2021 about the orig­i­nal study.