Puma Shen, director of the China Index: “Beijing takes advantage of political corruption in Latin America”
The University of Taipei professor explains that paying for trips, dinners and bribing high-ranking officials in the region is one of the regime's tools to the expansion of its interests in the region
Xi Jinping carried out a powerful propaganda campaign and expansion of Chinese interests in the world REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
The People's Republic of China (PRC) no longer has to spend millions of dollars in Latin America to get statements that fit their global agenda, “you just have to reach certain politicians and make sure you have connections, that costs less money”, Public File assured the president of China Index, Puma Shen, when asked about the influence of that Asian country in different nations.
Shen is vice president of the Taiwan Human Rights Association, assistant professor at National Taipei University, and director of the Doublethink Lab, an organization that researches influence and disinformation from the PRC.< /p>
Infographic Report China Central America 3rd installment
The China Index 2022 currently tracks the influence of the communist Asian giant in 83 countries. The next edition will feature one hundred countries.
Although economic interests are maintained with the region, which leverage other types of actions, in the 2020-2021 period investigated, the economic weakening due to the pandemic caused that the Chinese approach was first political and secondly technological, Shen noted.
“We discovered that in Latin America they focus more on politics; in foreign policy because foreign policy appeals to nationals, it's much easier to use. It's very symbolic,” he said.
Chinese officials and diplomats tend to seek connections with politicians at the national or local level, invite them to dinner, they pay for travel or bribe them to join their interests and side with China, Shen added.
Another finding is that technologyplays an important role in Latin America. “There are many agreements and contracts not only about networks, but also about surveillance, technology and equipment. This is given to Latin America to create another type of dependency”, warned the expert.
But in Central America it is another story. “We believe that the United States has more influence. Perhaps they have more alternatives to choose from and for that reason in terms of the technological approach, China does not have as much influence as the rest of Latin America.”
Opacity and corruption
China has been using many strategies that target politicians, try to reach many of them and even bribe them to mask national politics. And that part generally applies to each country.
Infographic Report China Central America 3rd installment
Despite this, the investigation discovers that the less corrupt countries receive more pressure from China and that they use the diasporas to expose the Chinese system.
It is much easier for China to influence nations with large diasporas with its ideology. “Without that Chinese diaspora, it would be much more difficult for them to build their ideology and that country in our ranking would be lower than other countries.”
“However, if we look at the media communication, educational institutions or law enforcement, in this area does not generally apply to each country. Only certain countries have been profoundly influenced by the media, educational institutions, etc.,” said the expert.
Influence on strong democracies
“When we look at the rankings we do in the China Index, we find that countries with membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and that are close to the United States or the United Kingdom, have more resilience to Chinese influence operations. ”Shen explained.
For example, in the area of technology and foreign policy, “if you are closer to the United States, you are more resilient in technology and in foreign policy. The other point here is that even if you are close to the United States, that you are working with the United States, you will still be affected in other areas, such as the media, the educational community, or domestic politics. “Being a friend of another region does not mean that you will not suffer interference from China,” he said.
How to work with the indicator
< p class="paragraph">Shen explained that the indicator has nine domains that include educational institutions, media, technologies, society, economy, national policy, foreign policy, law enforcement, etc. and for each domain, it has 11 indicators with different approaches for a total of 99, evaluated by partners in different parts of the world.
These nine domains qualify the economy, technology and ideology. The ideological aspect is measured through the media and educational institutions. Economics and technology go hand in hand, especially to create dependency and then demand more. Finally, “China even asks you to implement certain applications of their law in your own country and that's the law making part, the law enforcement part and they ask you to use those laws together,” he revealed.
Panama's Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi toast after signing an agreement (Reuters)
Pakistan is at the top of the list from nations influenced by the PRC and have created laws in the country trying to replicate the same Chinese system.
“With all these questions and indicators that we found, we can have a complete ranking for these 82 countries and see which country has been most influenced by these Chinese operations. For example, now number 1 is Pakistan and number 2 is Cambodia and number 3 is Singapore,” he said.
Counter with transparency
Shen considers that for years there has been talk of China's operations to increase its global influence but without an objective basis to know in which nation and in which specific ways such vulnerability occurs.
“We can learn from that country, from that experience, and say that because of certain policies, that country has not been influenced, for example, in the media. If in your country they were influenced in the media area, we can learn from your country. So it's about collaboration, creating public awareness and people learning about this Chinese interference operation in the world and trying to build the counter narrative and see what we can do collaboratively in the future,” Shen said.
“When assessing the situation we must do it with an objective eye and answer all these questions of the study, but what happens is that there are so many organizations, schools and scholars that have received funding, which would compromise the response they give us”, he assured.
Many think tanks and research centers and even the media receive Chinese funding, for which reason a relevant actor in the search for of transparency is independent investigative journalism, he said.
Shen recommended giving investigative journalism more tools to deepen its analysis on China, using these tools to answer questions, and collecting better information from the Internet.
Originally posted by Expediente Público
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