Mapping China’s footprint in the world IV: CCP influence in the Nordic-Baltic region

Workshop on the CCP’s global influence, coorganised with the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute.

10th December 2021

“Mapping China’s footprint in the world” is a series of research workshops initiated by Sinopsis on the CCP-led political system and its influence operations abroad. Since the inaugural workshop, held in 2018, it has gathered together global specialists to discuss new research at the frontier of the community’s knowledge of CCP influence, methodological challenges it raises, and its distillation into summaries and recommendations for policy-makers.

In previous editions, workshop events have reached global audiences from, within government, defence, diplomacy, home affairs, law enforcement and intelligence, as well as politics, academia, think tanks, media and the private and NGO sectors. The PRC Ministry of State Security communicated its interest in the research ecosystem’s role in the exposure of CCP operations by, i.a., detaining a participant following the inaugural, closed-door, workshop.

This year, Sinopsis has partnered with the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence and Security to focus on the CCP’s influence in the Nordic-Baltic region. Discussion of recent and ongoing research on Switzerland, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic updated the understanding of CCP influence operations as involving multiple components of the political system. The role of security agencies in this cross-system effort received special attention.

The public sessions of the workshop were live-streamed. A video recording is embedded below.

Updated on James Su Day 2021 and 8th Jan. 2022.


Programme

Panel 0: The extraterritorial projection of PRC state security

The research and policy communities’ attention on CCP influence operations has recently focused on their manifestation as élite capture and discourse engineering activity, carried out by propaganďa, united front and foreign affairs organs and their fronts. This panel discussed new research highlighting the external operations of the PRC’s security apparatus, including the previously underresearched intelligence involvement in propaganda and united front work.

Kristi Raik, Martin Hála, opening remarks

Martin Hála, Borrowed boats capsizing: State-security links exposed as a propaganda-laundering scheme unravels

Alex Joske, CCP overseas security operations

Matthew D. Johnson, The East rises, borders fade: China’s political-legal extrusion in Europe

See:

Martin Hála, Filip Jirouš and Ondřej Klimeš, “Borrowed Boats Capsizing: State Security Ties to CCP Propaganda Laundering Rile Czech Public”, China Brief 21:23, 3rd Dec. 2021.

Interviews with Johnson, Joske and Hála on the sidelines of the workshop:

Astrid Kannel, “Lääs pöörab aina enam tähelepanu Hiina tegevusele”, ERR, 13rd Dec. 2021.

Indrek Lepik, “Hiina mõjutustegevuse uurija: ‚Hiina pole riik, millele loota oma majanduse tulevikku rajades‘”, Eesti Ekpress, 31st Dec. 2021.

Panel 1: Influence operations as a multi-system effort

No single party, state or military agency monopolises the CCP’s external influence work. Rather, each major system composing the CCP-led bureaucracy includes organs and fronts active in influence work abroad. This panel presented three new studies that contribute to a multi-system understanding of party-state actors and their proxies, detailing their interactions with specific locales and targets in the democratic world. In addition to influence agencies in the CCP foreign affairs, propaganda and united front systems, the studies highlight the role of organs in the economic system, notably the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), as well as security organs.

Laura Harth, CCP influence agencies and their operations in Italian parliamentary and local politics

Łukasz Sarek, Party-state organisations as facilitators of Chinese-Polish economic cooperation

Filip Jirouš, Protecting political security abroad: International cooperation with the PRC Ministry of Public Security

Ralph Weber, The Chinese party-state’s rhizomatic attempt at co-opting Swiss academia

See:

Livia Codarin, Laura Harth and Jichang Lulu, “Hijacking the mainstream: CCP influence agencies and their operations in Italian parliamentary and local politics”, Sinopsis / Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”, 20th Nov. 2021.

Ralph Weber, “Unified message, rhizomatic delivery: A preliminary analysis of PRC/CCP influence and the united front in Switzerland”, Sinopsis, 18th Dec. 2020.

Panel 2: The Nordic-Baltic region

The multi-system nature of CCP influence work manifests itself in the party-state’s operations to coopt policy-making élites in Scandinavia and the Baltic states. The workshop’s concluding panel presented new studies on influence operations in Sweden and Estonia, as well as insights on the recent evolution of Lithuania’s relationship with China and Taiwan.

Pär Nyrén, Wine for friends, shotguns for enemies: The CCP’s influence work in Sweden

Justina Razumaitė, Updates in Lithuania’s one-China policy: PRC vs ROC

Frank Jüris, CCP influence activities in Estonia

Frank Jüris, Martin Hála, concluding remarks

Interviews with Razumaitė and Jüris on the sidelines of the workshop:

陳韻聿, “立陶宛學者:台灣議題熱前所未有 資訊需求待填補”, CNA, 20 Dec. 2021.

—, “愛沙尼亞學者:台海若有事 恐牽動波羅的海安全”, CNA, 23 Dec. 2021.

Further reading on CCP influence in the Baltics and Nordics:

Frank Jüris, “Estonian parties in the CCP’s grip: The International Liaison Department’s influence activities”, EFPI/Sinopsis, 25 Sept. 2020.

Pär Nyrén, “The CCP’s United Front Network in Sweden”, China Brief 20:16, 16 Sept. 2020.

Jichang Lulu, “Confined discourse management and the PRC’s localised interactions in the Nordics”, 22 Oct. 2018.

—, “Kina har købt politisk indflydelse i Norden for en slik”, Altinget, 21 Nov. 2018.