See More on Facebook

Analysis, Diplomacy

Is China undermining democracies around the world?

China sees undermining democracies as standard practice: experts say.

Written by

Updated: July 30, 2018

China experts on Tuesday called attention to Beijing’s efforts to undermine liberal democracies and highlighted Taiwan’s role in finding strategies to mitigate the campaign aimed at serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The united front actions and interference engaged in by China are simply part of the routine day-to-day operations of the CCP, said Peter Mattis, a research fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the United States.

“They are not special activities. They are not covert actions. They are not something done outside of the normal policy channels,” Mattis said on Tuesday at the Ketagalan Forum: 2018 Asia Pacific Security Dialogue.

“These are in fact things that are operated within the CCP’s policy guidances and normal activities of the party.”

What the Communist Party has been doing to undermine democracy and intervene in foreign states “is simply the party’s way of interacting with the world,” Mattis said, citing former CCP leader Mao Zedong’s description of united front work as mobilizing the CCP’s “friends to strike at (the party’s) enemies.”

Anne-Marie Brady, a political science professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said at the forum that China’s activities have accelerated under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who called united front work one of the CCP’s “magic
weapons” in 2014.

Brady said these “magic weapons” fall into four categories: using the Chinese diaspora as CCP agents, co-opting foreigners to promote the CCP’s foreign policy goals, intensifying propaganda to influence global perceptions of China, and creating a China-centered economic bloc through the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Clive Hamilton, a professor of political ethics at Charles Sturt University in Australia, said China has directed “all of the weapons of its political warfare” at his country since 2004 to absorb it into its influence and shift it away from the U.S. China’s reach has extended into Australia’s political, social, business, media, and education sectors through various methods, Hamilton said.

They include giving donations to political parties and politicians, suppressing dissidents in the overseas Chinese-Australian community, forging agreements involving universities on both sides, and having civil associations taken over by people with pro-Beijing
sympathies, he said.

That has given the CCP powerful weapons at its disposal to subvert Australia not by applying outside pressure on it but by eroding resistance from within, he said.

“Many influential academics and commentators are now reliable friends of China” who help create narratives promoting favorable perceptions of the CCP, focusing on the economic benefits of bilateral relations and downplaying its interference in Australia, he said.

In the panel discussion at the forum on “China’s sharp power and its challenges to the democratic world,” the experts also addressed the role Taiwan can play in addressing the challenges facing democracies.

“This is an opportunity for Taiwan to take a leadership role because Taiwan knows (China’s) united front work better than anyone in the world,” Brady said. She said she would like to see Taiwan share its knowledge and expertise on this tactic to help the world better understand it.

Brady also called for small countries to support each other, particularly in economic cooperation through trade, aid or assistance in infrastructure development “in this very challenging global environment where the U.S. is not a very reliable partner and China is
a very troubling partner.”

Mattis agreed that Taiwan has a lot to offer because “there is no country that has been exposed to (China’s) united front tactic for as long as Taiwan has.” But he disagreed on the uncertainties created by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, saying that they might hold true for Australia or South Korea, but that Taiwan is in a different position.

That’s because “on two of the core areas where President Trump made campaign promises — the first was trade and the second was allies paying their fair share — Taiwan is not a trade problem for the United States and Taiwan is not benefiting from a lot of donations…Taiwan has had to pay its way in the alliance,” Mattis said.

Mattis also dismissed a view that Taiwan is a chip that can be traded away by the U.S., saying that some of Taiwan’s best friends in the Trump administration have rejected the CCP’s narratives and understanding of Taiwan’s place in the world or Taiwan’s relationship
with China.

“They haven’t been the ones who have assimilated a view of  stability in U.S.-China relations that subsumes Taiwan and places Taiwan as a dependent agent that doesn’t have its own right to choose where its future lies,” he said.

In terms of who the president is, the U.S.’s policy, and people who are executing it, this is a relatively good time for U.S.-Taiwan relations, he said. “The problem is that Taiwan bears punishment (from China) for that good relationship in a way that other U.S. allies do not.”

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

ANN Members
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Diplomacy

Swift assistance needed to rehabilitate Hokkaido’s quake-stricken industries

To realize Hokkaido’s post-quake rehabilitation, it is indispensable to rebuild its industries. A half month has passed since the Hokkaido earthquake, which registered the highest level on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7. A power blackout that spread to all parts of the prefecture has been resolved. The No. 1 unit at the Tomato-Atsuma thermal power plant — a facility that plays a central role in the supply of electricity there — has been brought back on line. The government has withdrawn its request for power-saving, and neon lighting has returned to flourishing areas in Sapporo. However, scars from the earthquake have not yet healed. Even if the amount of direct damage, including that caused to roads, rivers and forest land, is calculated alone, the figure exceeds ¥150 billion. There are still many disaster victims in evacuation centers. T

By The Japan News
September 25, 2018

Analysis, Diplomacy

Maldives strongman Abdulla Yameen in shock election defeat

The Maldivian election was watched closely as an indicator of China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. Maldives strongman Abdulla Yameen’s hopes for a second presidential term were dashed on September 24 with opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeating him in the country’s elections. After a months-long sweeping crackdown on the opposition and a brief state of emergency imposed by the autocratic Yameen, the election on September 23 was preceded by a bitter campaign during which opposition leaders frequently accused the ruling regime of rights abuses and oppression. Several independent news websites reported that after the counting of a majority of the votes, Solih had won more than 58 per cent of the votes to 41 per cent for Yameen. Hours after the emergence of the informal results, Yameen conceded defeat to Solih during a televised news conference, saying: “Mal

By Lamat R Hasan
September 25, 2018

Analysis, Diplomacy

Ending Rohingya Crisis: Bangladesh tables 3 proposals at UN meeting

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday made three recommendations for solving the Rohingya crisis at its root while at the UN meeting in New York. According to her second recommendation, Myanmar must create a conducive environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights and pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas. If needed, it should create a “safe zone” inside the country to protect all civilians. Her third recommendation says atrocious crimes against Rohingyas in Myanmar should be prevented by bringing accountability and justice, particularly in the light of recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council. The PM was speaking at a high-level event on the “Global Compact on Refugees: A Model for Greater Solidarity and Cooperation” at the UN headquarters in New York. “In Bangladesh, now we’re faced with the largest forced mov

By Daily Star
September 25, 2018

Analysis, Diplomacy

Moon, Trump discuss ‘corresponding measures’ for NK denucelarization

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in New York on Sunday for a bilateral summit with US President Donald Trump that is partly aimed at brokering a second US-North Korea summit. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump on Monday discussed possible ways to reward North Korea for its denuclearization measures that will apparently include a second US-North Korea summit. “The leaders agreed to continue communicating closely about corresponding measures,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. In their bilateral summit held in New York, the leaders of South K

By The Korea Herald
September 25, 2018

Analysis, Diplomacy

Thai seafood giant to address slavery issues at UN

Thailand’s progress in promoting human rights in the fishing industry will be addressed in a panel session on modern slavery and human trafficking at the United Nations General Assembly by seafood giants Thai Union. Darian McBain, global director of sustainability for the Thai Union Group, will address the panel on the topic of “Stepping up Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking”. “Thailand has made a number of advances on human rights, which should be commended, but there is more work to be done and I believe Thailand has the opportunity b

By The Nation (Thailand)
September 24, 2018

Analysis, Diplomacy

Opinion: One Belt, One Road: We must secure our interest

Shah Husain Imam argues in the Daily Star that Bangladesh must put its interests first in joining China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The ancient Silk Road, of which the Belt and Road Initiative is a gigantic new avatar, dates back to the Chinese Han Dynasty’s westward expansion more than 2100 years ago. The Road derived its name from the lucrative silk trade along the routes through which it branched into what are today the central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, as well as present-day Pakistan and India to the south. These routes eventually spanned 4,000 miles to Europe. Interestingly, silk was regarded as more precious than gold as a commodity in those times as if to convey the misty romanticism with the old world charm about a fine fabric. At any rate, the Silk Road by no means offered silken smooth passage to travellers like Marco P

By Daily Star
September 21, 2018