Countering Russian and Chinese Influence Activities Discussion

Countering Russian and Chinese Influence Activities Discussion

Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 1 of 32 COUNTERING RUSSIAN & CHINESE INFLUENCE ACTIVITIES Heather A. Conley, Cyrus Newlin, and Tim Kostelancik https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 2 of 32 Moscow and Beijing’s toolkit for influencing democratic societies has evolved. Using Germany, the UK, Japan, and Australia as case studies, CSIS explores what traits made these democracies vulnerable to foreign influence as well as the sources of their resiliency. Introduction https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 3 of 32 The impact of Russian and Chinese malign influence activities within democratic states has come into sharp focus in recent years. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has created new opportunities for Moscow and Beijing to advance geopolitical goals through disinformation and other influence activities. Despite greater public awareness of the challenge, governments have struggled to respond. The “3 Cs” framework, coined by former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, defines “malign” influence activities as covert, coercive, or corrupting . These influence activities disrupt the normal democratic political processes in a targeted country by: 1. Manipulating public discourse; 2. Discrediting the electoral system; 3. Biasing the development of policy; or 4. Disrupting markets for the purpose of advancing a political or strategic goal. These activities are typically non-transparent, outside the rule of law, and run counter to liberal democratic norms. Activities that are covert, coercive, or corrupting differ from legitimate or benign public diplomacy efforts conducted in a transparent and open manner. A growing body of research details and scrutinizes the strategies and tactics behind Russian and Chinese influence activities. Our research focuses on understanding how these activities play out in democratic polities and how governments and societies respond. What are the factors that make countries particularly vulnerable to Chinese https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 4 of 32 or Russian malign influence activities? What are the sources of resilience that enable democratic governments and polities to mitigate, fend off, or push back on malign efforts to distort public debate and political processes? To what degree have China and Russia been successful in influencing political outcomes through their activities? Foreign influence activities pose a common threat to democracies, but in different ways. CSIS examined Russian influence activities in Germany and the United Kingdom and Chinese influence operations in Japan and Australia. The cases highlight the different goals and tactics of Moscow and Beijing, as well as some common features in their approaches. They also demonstrate which methods and tactics are most effective in particular countries and why. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 5 of 32 Russian Objectives and Tools As a cost-effective means of preserving its relative strength, Russia seeks to undermine its competitors by creating division both within and between democracies and by promoting policies and positions that are favorable to Moscow. To accomplish these goals, the Kremlin has enhanced its capabilities in the information space while continuing to utilize other long-standing influence tools such as illicit financing and corruption. Russian activities are not orchestrated by a single actor but by numerous, often competing entities with varying degrees of autonomy from the Kremlin. Sputnik and RT, state-owned media outlets, engage in state-sponsored messaging. This messaging is then amplified by online bots and trolls—some officially state-sponsored and some operating as independent actors in service of the state. Russian intelligence services, such as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GRU), plant “hacked-and-leaked” stories and false information in fringe publications with the aim of infiltrating mainstream democratic discourse. The resulting narratives are amplified on social media by entities such as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) as well as online networks in the targeted countries. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 6 of 32 The Internet Research Agency in 2018. | Voice of America via Wikipedia https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 7 of 32 Russia’s Malign Influence Activities in Germany Germany’s centrality to the project of European integration, its economic and political weight, and its long-standing historical and cultural ties with Russia have made it a natural target for Russian influence activities. Activities such as a distorted 2016 report of a young ethnic Russian raped by migrants (the infamous “Lisa case”), interference in the the 2017 Bundestag election campaign, and the August 2019 murder of a GeorgianChechen militant named Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin all provide powerful examples of Russian malign influence activities. Used with permission from the CSIS Defending Democratic Institutions project. Social Cohesion and Partisanship https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 8 of 32 Germany enjoys comparatively high levels of political and social cohesion and consensus, which make it less vulnerable to disruptive Russian influence. In both the 2016 Lisa case and the 2017 Bundestag election, specific Russian information operations sought to capitalize on preexisting political divisions about migration, but these narratives gained limited traction. Diasporas Germany’s population of 3 million Soviet-born immigrants and their children retain a distinct “outsider” identity and engage more with Russian media and culture. Citizens from the former German Democratic Republic, while not a formal “diaspora,” are dissociated from mainstream political discourse in similar ways. They tend toward Euroskepticism, are more hostile to ethnic and religious minorities and migration, and are more supportive of far-left and far-right parties. These demographics were a primary target in the Lisa case. Economic Connections Germany’s reliance on Russian energy, its role as a distribution hub for European gas, and the concentration of Russia-related business among major German companies are primary avenues for Russian economic influence, even if overall trade volumes are small. These asymmetries can result in “captured” elites whose own interests lead them to promote Russia-friendly policies. The best known example is former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder negotiating the Nord Stream pipeline before becoming chairman of the firm that went on to construct both Nord Stream 1 and 2. Campaign Finance Germany has comparatively strict laws on political party financing, and there has been https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 9 of 32 little evidence of direct financial support to German far-left and far-right parties. Social Media Regulation Germany’s stringent Network Enforcement Act adopted in 2017 requires social media platforms with more than 2 million users to remove extremist content and “junk news” or face heavy fines. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 10 of 32 Russia’s Malign Influence Activities in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom’s political, economic, and military strength, along with its close relationship with the United States, make it a prime target for Russian influence activities. In the United Kingdom, Russian influence activities have focused on amplifying societal divisions around the Brexit referendum. There have also been efforts to deflect Russian state culpability in the Skripal novichok poisoning and deepen ties with British political figures where possible. Social Cohesion and Partisanship While the United Kingdom is a vibrant democracy, political polarization stemming from cultural and societal divisions have become more pronounced, particularly around Brexit. Russia used this to exploit anti-elite sentiments and magnify fears about immigrants and the erosion of British (particularly English) “culture.” Separatist sentiment in Scotland and tensions within Northern Ireland present further opportunities for Russian information operations. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 11 of 32 Diasporas Compared to Russians in Germany, Russians in the United Kingdom are generally better off and more highly integrated into UK society, making them a less ripe target for influence operations. Economic Connections The city of London and the United Kingdom’s offshore tax centers attract considerable Russian funds. However, the UK-Russia economic relationship is much smaller than the one between Germany and Russia and has not resulted in a business lobby advocating for better relations with Moscow. Instead, it has centered upon individual political figures who have voiced pro-Russian stances. Campaign Finance The UK campaign finance law covering donations to political parties has a significant loophole. The law prohibits contributions from foreign companies and individuals. However, it does not require disclosure of political donations from the beneficial owners of non-British companies that are incorporated in the United Kingdom. There are indications that Russian funds have flowed into UK political parties through industry lobby groups and venture capital funds through this loophole. However, there is little evidence of political donations actually shifting party positions on Russia. Social Media Regulation https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 12 of 32 UK statutory regulations require impartiality in public broadcasting and are enforced, but no legislation regulates non-public online news. There are no prohibitions on false or misleading information in political advertising either. Commercial print journalism outlets in the United Kingdom are also highly partisan. Russia’s Impact In both Germany and the United Kingdom, high public trust in traditional media is a source of immunity to foreign information operations. Close to one-third of Germans watch the state-run ARD network evening news, while in the United Kingdom nearly https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 13 of 32 50 percent of adults from across the ideological spectrum rely on the BBC as their main source of news. Private media outlets have a clear charter and oversight mechanism. Russian state-sponsored outlets such as RT and Sputnik are present in both countries and target specific segments of the population but have little influence on mainstream political discourse. However, in both countries an increasing reliance on less-regulated social media as a source for information presents a growing challenge. While on the whole Russia exercises less influence in the United Kingdom than in Germany, Russian information operations in the United Kingdom have proven more disruptive. This outcome is less a result of Russian actions than of sharp societal divisions around Brexit as well as a less regulated online media and tabloid environment. In Germany, Moscow’s efforts to exploit cultural fissures and promote extreme political actors have largely fallen flat. The United Kingdom increasingly views influence activities through a security lens. It has deployed a robust “whole-of-government” response that makes use of the full range of the United Kingdom’s capabilities, including economic levers, military resources, and wider diplomatic efforts. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 14 of 32 The United Kingdom’s ‘Resist’ framework. | Her Royal Majesty’s Government However, rather than respond to each instance of disinformation, the United Kingdom focuses its efforts on those malign influence efforts—such as election interference—that are likely to have the greatest impact and has also implemented an extensive media literacy program. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 15 of 32 Berlin’s response to Russian information operations is less securitized and centers on producing counter-narratives that emphasize factual information. This approach benefits from Germans’ high levels of trust in their government and the premium placed on societal consensus, which allows Germany to more comfortably coexist with some level of disinformation. Chinese Objectives and Tools https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 16 of 32 China has primarily used influence activities to cultivate a positive image of its rise on the global stage and to diminish public criticism. Unlike Russia, its activities in the information space traditionally consist of censorship through economic leverage and coercion rather than disinformation. Chinese influence operations are conducted by the United Front Work Department (UFWD), the proclaimed “magic weapon ” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The UFWD guides a network of civic and business associations, student groups, Chinese-language media, academic institutions, and politicians, which is used to intimidate, surveil, and co-opt the overseas Chinese community. The UFWD also works to build relationships with Western enablers in academic and media spheres. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 17 of 32 China’s Malign Influence Activities in Japan Japan is a natural target of Chinese influence given its geographical proximity, economic weight, geopolitical rivalry, and long-standing alliance with the United States. Japan has proved resilient to influence activities aimed at creating a positive image of China: a 2019 Pew Research poll found that 85 percent of those polled in Japan hold an unfavorable view of China, the most negative views of China among all 34 countries surveyed. This likely reflects a deep bias against China among the Japanese public based on centuries of animosity. Social Cohesion and Partisanship Japan’s political stability, reinforced by an apathetic public and low civic engagement, narrows the space for election interference and largely inoculates Japanese politics to foreign influence. With only two short hiatuses, the ruling LDP has controlled the government since 1955, minimizing the return on foreign political meddling efforts. Economic Connections https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 18 of 32 The legacy of moderating Japan’s exposure to globalization is slowly ebbing under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but this still remains a major source of protection against Chinese influence. Inbound foreign direct investment (FDI) in Japan was about $10 billion in 2017, placing it outside of the top 20 countries. Japan is increasingly dependent on China as its top export market but remains relatively unexposed to Chinese FDI. Diasporas There is a growing number of Chinese students and tourists in Japan, and Chinese students represent the largest portion of the country’s tiny foreign population. However, Japan’s overwhelming cultural and demographic homogeneity presents fewer opportunities for China to exert influence through diaspora communities. Media Landscape Japan derives resiliency from its media environment, in part though its exclusive press clubs. It is also protected by its restraints on the free press via the influence and enactment of the 2013 State Secrecy Law, which punishes leaks of sensitive information. Five Japanese media conglomerates dominate mainstream print and broadcast media. This centralized, oligopolostic press environment creates few openings for foreign media to influence political discourse. Campaign Finance Strict campaign finance restrictions against foreign funding based on the 1948 Political Funds Control Act in Japan are another source of resiliency that prevent elite capture. https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 19 of 32 China’s Malign Influence Activities in Australia https://www.csis.org/features/countering-russian-chinese-influence-activities 7/7/2020 Countering Russian & Chinese Influence Activities | Center for Strategic and International Studies Page 20 of 32 Like Japan, Australia is an attractive target for Chinese influence operations because of its strategic value as a U.S. ally in the increasingly contested Indo-Pacific region. Beijing’s ultimate goal is to peel Australia away from its alliance with the United States. Neutralizing Australia on a key issue such as the South China Sea would pay huge dividends for Beijing by reducing American regional leadership. Australia’s economic dependency on China and its large Chinese diaspora create points of leverage for Beijing to exploit. Social Cohesion and Partisanship China has sought to divide Australia’s multicultural society by trying to unite the …

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