The Interference Operations from Putin’s Kremlin and Xi’s Communist Party: Forging a Joint Response

Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin are systematically interfering in the politics and undermining the institutions of democratic nations.1 Xi’s China and Putin’s Russia have different long-term goals, strategic positions, methodologies, and capabilities. But their interests in weakening the liberal order are converging, and they are working from a similar asymmetric toolkit. The clandestine, deniable, and invasive nature of many of these activities presents difficult national security challenges, and arguably even greater challenges to developing nations, which lack effective institutions of transparency and rule of law. Western democracies are now recognizing the dangers posed by authoritarian interference, but none has successfully implemented an effective counter strategy.

We need a clear analytical framework for identifying malign interference and developing politically sustainable resilience and deterrence strategies. Clarity of diagnosis raises the likelihood of a surgical policy response—one which manages risks and mitigates harm without jeopardizing the benefits of global engagement or undermining the democratic and pluralistic values and institutions we are endeavoring to protect. In our view, the different threats to democracy posed by Beijing and Moscow (and others who seek to emulate their success including Tehran, Pyongyang, and Istanbul) should be viewed through a single national security lens. A principled and consistent approach raises the likelihood that policy makers can rise above sectional interests and partisan fault lines in situations where authoritarian powers have succeeded in building compromising ties to particular sets of political elites and opinion-makers. Such an approach also raises the potential for democracies to collaborate with each other and mount a coordinated pushback.

Defining the Problem

This article is not concerned with all forms of authoritarian influence. We are not concerned with ordinary diplomacy and transparent public diplomacy, nor traditional intelligence collection operations, in which all established states engage. Nor are we concerned with “soft power” as defined by Joseph Nye—as an attractive force.  Rather, this paper is concerned with a subset of malign foreign influence which sits between the poles of diplomacy and soft power on one side and “hard” military power on the other. Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig describe this category of problematic behavior as “sharp power”2:

Authoritarian influence efforts are “sharp” in the sense that they pierce, penetrate, or perforate the political and information environments in the targeted countries…seeking to manipulate their target audiences by distorting the information that reaches them. Sharp power likewise enables the authoritarians to cut into the fabric of a society, stoking and amplifying existing divisions…. Above all, the term “sharp power” captures the malign and aggressive nature of the authoritarian projects, which bear little resemblance to the benign attraction of soft power.

Similarly, Australia’s Turnbull Government has focused its concerns on forms of influence that can be categorized as “interference.”4 It distinguishes legitimate and transparent activities from those that are “covert, corrupting, or coercive.”3 While Australia has been preoccupied with China’s interference operations5, its “3 C’s” framework can be applied with equal utility to the Russian government’s nefarious activities in Europe, the United States, and beyond. In this article we use “interference” and “covert, corrupting, or coercive” behavior interchangeably.


Beijing and Moscow were strategic competitors for at least three decades from the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s. But their strategic differences and mistrust are being overridden—at least in the near-term—by a convergence of interests in three areas.6 First, at the ideological level, both have an interest in eroding the legitimacy of liberal democratic governments as a means of bolstering internally their own illiberal systems of government. Second, each has specific interests in weakening the US-anchored alliance and security partnerships, which constrain their activities and limit their reach in their purported spheres of influence. Third, both have an interest in preventing foreign individuals, organizations, and governments from criticizing and organizing against them—including by targeting members of their diaspora populations.

Like Putin, Xi’s CCP has always defined itself as being under siege from a hostile world, with “Western liberalism” posing the greatest threat. Both work to repel foreign influence at home while engaging in interference abroad. Both are building cults of personality and tightening their personal hold on security levers. And yet Xi’s China and Putin’s Russia are working on very different time horizons, from different strategic positions, and with different institutions and methodologies. China is a rising power which has been steadily and dramatically increasing its economic, technological, and military weight relative to the rest of the world since the 1970s. In contrast, Russia has been declining across all three measures for all of this period. Russia’s long-term decline accelerated with the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. While Russian GDP decreased from around 9% of US GDP in 1989 to around 7% in 2016 (at market exchange rates), China’s GDP grew from less than 7% of US GDP to over 60% over the same period. The Chinese economy is already larger than the US one if measured with purchasing power parity.7

The differing strategic positions and trajectories help to explain why Russian interference operations are frequently aimed at causing chaos and destruction without great consideration of the aftermath. Putin has little interest in long-term global stability. Rather, he has a more limited objective of weakening the current order to gain relative strength—his only means to Make Russia Great Again—and maintain his own authority.8 In contrast, as a rising power, China’s interference activities tend to be more subtle and methodical with a much longer time frame, focusing on steadily cultivating relationships that can be exploited opportunistically in accordance with clear strategic objectives. While Beijing and Moscow both work to weaken their liberal democratic competitors, only China is working to shape the future international system.

Organizational machinery: party and personality

But diverging power relativities are not the whole story. China’s methodologies were more patient and subtle than Russia’s even before their growth trajectories diverged in the 1970s. While both leaders aim to suppress critical voices beyond their borders, only Putin has shown himself willing to physically eliminate opponents.9 He reflects a Soviet tradition in which executions and assassinations were routine. Xi, in contrast, inherits a tradition which prefers to use incentives, coercion, and psychological techniques to “reform” opponents and manufacture their consent. The most important difference between the CCP and its Soviet ancestor was the CCP’s development of a vast and complex “united front” system during the prolonged anti-Japanese and civil wars of the 1930s and 1940s. The United Front began as a Leninist tactic10 but was institutionalized in China in the form of a stand-alone United Front Work Department (UFWD).11 The UFWD guides and controls an elaborate network of proxies and front organizations—which Xi describes as “concentric circles”—such as the Council for the Peaceful Promotion of Reunification of China. “The UFWD coordinates a system for undermining opponents and supporting allies through manipulation, deception and reward that’s known as the United Front,” writes Alex Joske.12 Xi, like Mao, describes the United Front as a “magic weapon.”

Putin’s Russia has little of the institutional and ideological coherence of Xi’s China. The breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s caused the formal state systems to fracture. The ideological continuities are largely personal, reflecting Putin’s hostility toward democracy and Western liberalism carried over from his own KGB days. And the institutional continuities are largely confined to the intelligence services, which Putin has rebuilt and reinvigorated. Russia’s interference operations are not carried out today in a centralized manner. Rather, “Putin and his circle sketch out in broad terms what they would like to happen, and agents of the state scurry to interpret and meet those desires,” says Mark Galeotti. “He [Putin] and his people are improvisers and opportunists.”13 Still, numerous organs of the state play a role in these operations, particularly the intelligence services, and Galeotti assesses that “there is clearly some effort to coordinate certain operations” and in such cases the Presidential Administration plays the role of coordinator.14

In China, in contrast, the student protests and massacres of 1989 prompted the CCP to rebuild its systems of ideology, propaganda, and political control15—a project uninterrupted for nearly three decades, which has greatly intensified since the 18th Party Congress in November 2012 under Xi Jinping. Xi has reinvigorated the UFWD and expanded its remit. In March 2018 the party restructured its diaspora engagement systems by having the UFWD explicitly subsume the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (while retaining the old name plate for English language communications).16 Similarly, the party’s over-developed civilian and military intelligence systems have ploughed resources into a vast network of front organizations and influence platforms such as the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the China Association for International Friendly Contacts.


The clandestine and deceptive nature of foreign interference operations makes comparative analysis inherently challenging. Difficulties of identification and attribution are compounded by the systematic use of inducements and coercion to shut down scrutiny.17 These challenges have obstructed democratic systems from generating the political “signals” that are necessary to initiate deep analysis inside and outside of government.18

Nevertheless, experts have been exposing authoritarian interference operations for more than a decade, particularly on Russia’s periphery. In June 2009, leaders from Central and Eastern Europe warned President Obama that Russia “uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from economic blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests.”19 The Kremlin Playbook, a report led by CSIS’ Heather Conley, concluded that: 

Russia has cultivated an opaque web of economic and political patronage across the region that the Kremlin uses to influence and direct decision making. This web resembles a network-flow model—or “unvirtuous circle”—which the Kremlin can use to influence (if not control) critical state institutions, bodies, and economies, as well as shape national policies and decisions that serve its interests while actively discrediting the Western liberal democratic system.20

These findings on Russian interference in Eastern and Central Europe could have been applied to Russian and Chinese operations globally.  Until recently, however, a dearth of publicly available “official” government analysis has enabled both countries to maintain plausible deniability. Since the 2016 US presidential election, the US intelligence community, congressional investigations and Special Counsel Mueller have added significant evidence and analysis of the Russian government’s interference operations to the public domain—particularly its use of information operations and cyberattacks. Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and recent elections in France and Germany have also raised the level of government scrutiny outside of Central and Eastern Europe. Western government awareness of Chinese operations has also gained momentum.21 Increasingly detailed and urgent warnings from intelligence agencies have catalyzed further media investigations, generating a substantial body of work that illuminates how Beijing and Moscow are working to interfere with foreign government processes and subvert democracy.


Moscow’s updated “active measures” draw on an old Cold War playbook hyper-charged by technology. This toolkit includes information operations, cyberattacks, malign financial influence, economic coercion, and exploitation of political parties and groups—which are combined to exacerbate divisions, sow discord, and undermine faith in democratic institutions. The Russian government and its proxies use official Russian media and purchases of local media to inject Kremlin narratives, support extremist and paramilitary groups, create fake online personas, and cultivate local proxies to spread disinformation and fan the flames of division.

The Kremlin cultivates political leaders through a web of financial incentives, often linked to its energy sector, as exemplified by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s recent appointment to the board of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.22  Funding of France’s far-right Front National party illustrates the Kremlin’s support for divisive Western political parties and groups. Moscow also cultivates ties with political organizers and activists, academics, journalists, web operators, shell companies, nationalists and militant groups, and prominent pro-Russian businessmen.23 It targets Russian diaspora communities, particularly along its periphery.

From 2014, and possibly earlier, the Russian government engaged in operations against the 2016 US presidential elections. This includes hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair and use of the stolen material for information operations. Russian intelligence agents traveled to surveil the US landscape and curate social media campaigns. Russia’s Internet Research Agency generated fake American social media personas that pumped out inflammatory and divisive content, supported the Kremlin’s geostrategic positions, and attacked Clinton while favoring Trump. These accounts prompted unwitting Americans to show up at protests that had been organized from thousands of miles away. According to press reports, Russian operations may have included funding for political groups24, and possibly campaigns.25 Journalist Julia Ioffe argues that Putin turned his institutional deficiencies to his advantage during the 2016 US election: “The Russians’ strength was in their disorganization, in their flexibility, in their high appetite for risk, and the fact that they were willing to try crazy things and pivot as the situation merited.”26 


On the other side of the world, Australian media reports were showing that the Communist Party was systematically silencing critics and co-opting Chinese language media to present favorable views.27 The Party was “astroturfing” grassroots political movements to give the impression of ethnic Chinese support for Beijing’s policies and leaders, while drowning out opponents.28 CCP-linked organizations were crowding out independent opportunities for ethnic Chinese community political representation.29 A series of influential retired Australian politicians were given research funding and business consultancies by CCP-linked individuals and entities.30

In 2017, CCP interference in Australian democratic processes grew so brazen that party officials began to use their capability for interference as diplomatic leverage. The party reportedly leveraged the fact of its arbitrary power over Australian prisoners in China31 and its ability to influence elections in Australia32 to persuade the Australian Parliament to ratify an extradition treaty.33 The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) warned the major political parties that two of Australia’s most generous donors had “strong connections to the Chinese Communist Party” and that their “donations might come with strings attached.”34 Most notoriously, a Labor Party senator, Sam Dastyari, was forced to retire after reciting Beijing’s South China Sea talking points and counseling a Chinese citizen donor to place his phone aside to avoid surveillance of their conversation.

More recently, media and academic interest in Chinese foreign interference has spread to Europe, the United States, and New Zealand. Martin Hala, in the Czech Republic, describes a network of state-backed “crony capitalism” with striking similarities to the Kremlin playbook described by Heather Conley. “Ostensibly commercial companies put former politicians on their payrolls by the dozen. As it turns out, CEFC’s main investments in the Czech Republic weren’t economic, they were about buying up the loyalty of Czech officials.”35 In the United States, Peter Mattis writes that Chinese interference efforts can be categorized as “shaping the context, controlling the Chinese diaspora, and targeting the political core.”36 The use of Confucius Institutes and “dark” United Front funding channels37 has attracted particular attention.38 In New Zealand, Anne-Marie Brady has documented links between China’s intelligence and united front systems and elected members of the parliament.39 And the development of a series of United Nations-related FBI bribery investigations could shed light on how the CCP is co-opting leaders in the developing world.

Same Playbook, Different Plays?

Case studies in the public domain show striking commonalities in Russia and China’s interference playbooks, particularly in their use of inducements and coercion to suborn political elites. They both work to stifle counter voices and undermine the idea of reasoned argument and evidence-based “truth.”40 They both prefer to offer “guidance” rather than “direction.” They are both skilled at locating and exploiting societal fault lines to advantage. And both the CCP and Kremlin use corruption as a weapon to corrode democracies and recruit proxies to advance their interests from within.  

But there are differences in the plays they run which reflect their different interests and also the different vulnerabilities of targeted nations. The Kremlin plays for the extremes in the societies it targets because it is interested in fomenting chaos and division as an end in itself. The CCP plays a longer game. It works hard to find common interests and cultivate relationships of dependency with mainstream partners, which can be leveraged opportunistically. Peter Mattis concludes: “The best way to describe the differences between the two approaches is that the Chinese are human- or relationship-centric while the Russians are operation- or effects-centric.”41

The CCP works through a complex, subtle and deeply institutionalized system of inducements and threats, which is designed to shape the way outsiders talk, think, and behave. Its use of overt propaganda, quasi-covert channels, and covert activities to shape language, perceptions, and actions is remarkably coherent and consistent over time. It involves an incremental process of eroding existing discursive and political structures and steadily building new CCP-centric ones to take their place. For example, it patiently works to collapse the categories of “Chinese Communist Party”, “China” and “the Chinese people” into a single organic whole—so that critics of the party’s activities can be readily caricatured and attacked as anti-Chinese or anti-China. And China covers more ground than Russia, systematically cultivating the public discussion in universities, in business communities, in ethnic Chinese communities, in media and entertainment, as well as politics and government.42

China has successfully extended its domestic propaganda and censorship systems throughout the Chinese-speaking world. It has done this primarily through co-opting previously independent media houses, establishing new ones, and using Chinese language social media platforms such as WeChat43 to dominate digital distribution channels. Beijing has also begun to undertake Russian-style information operations outside its borders—particularly in Taiwan, which has been a testing ground for many of its tactics.44

Both Russia and China have invested large sums in foreign language propaganda networks.  Russia has RT and Sputnik and China has its English language newspapers, the Global Times and China Daily, and a newly-consolidated broadcasting conglomerate called Voice of China. To date, Russia has shown a far greater capability to directly exploit the vulnerabilities of English language digital media platforms and particularly social media. This includes setting up and purchasing media outlets in other countries.45 China has yet to make significant inroads in spreading disinformation outside the Chinese language but is no doubt studying Russia’s success. In January, a Chinese English language propaganda outlet fabricated quotes from the local mayor to argue that the agenda for the World Economic Forum in Davos had been shaped by Xi Jinping.46

The economic dependence of many of Beijing’s target countries gives the CCP the ability to spread its tools across a much wider range of strategic sectors and for a variety of purposes. Beijing has also invested heavily in technologies that could play important future roles in the CCP’s ability to manipulate and control the information space, including Artificial Intelligence and data acquisition. In contrast, Moscow’s troubled economy and constraints imposed by sanctions have reduced some of its economic leverage. But it has continued to use its energy sector in particular to gain strategic leverage over foreign governments through pipeline deals and, in some cases, literally turning off the gas.

The comparisons are important. But, as Peter Mattis underscores: “The operational differences, for all their practical implications, may be less important than the simple recognition that Beijing and Moscow both approach influence operations and active measures as a normal way of doing business.”47

Mounting a Democratic Response

The success of Russian and Chinese interference operations has been enabled by the vulnerabilities and national security shortcomings of our democracies. In retrospect, authoritarian interference activities have been emboldened by the democratic world’s collective failure to push back. A reluctance to call out covert, corrupting, and coercive tactics—particularly as they played out inside diaspora communities and along peripheries—was interpreted by Putin and Xi as a permission slip to keep pushing.  

In the United States, a fear of escalation led the Obama administration to err on the side of restraint in dealing with both Moscow and Beijing. In the United Kingdom, the failure of British authorities to sanction Russia after the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 emboldened the Kremlin to sanction the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March 2018, using a nerve agent. In Australia, a permissive environment led the CCP to pursue increasingly brazen interference with parliamentary processes and use Australia as a staging ground for regional united front work.48 More generally, US retreat from global leadership has created space for Russia and China to work together. 

Weaknesses in our own democracies are being exploited. A global retreat in democracy49 and an erosion of support for democracy as the best form of government50 have opened vulnerabilities and made populations less resistant to coercive, corrupting, and covert tactics. In the United States, this includes hyper-partisanship and growing polarization, racial tensions, wide economic disparities, and lax regulations on foreign lobbying and political advertising. Europe’s vulnerabilities include heated debates over immigration, as well as energy dependence on Russia, institutional fragility, corruption, and in some places a cultural affinity for Russia. Australia’s vulnerabilities include strained funding models for universities and media, lax campaign finance laws, and weak enforcement of financial probity laws. Nevertheless, democracies are belatedly recognizing that both Russia and China are actively working to undermine Western liberalism and the US-anchored alliance system that underpins their security.

Democracies face twin interference challenges—from Putin’s diminished and declining Russia and Xi’s rising and triumphalist China—which must now be confronted from a standing start. An effective counter strategy must begin with an unambiguous political signal of intent. This new prioritization should be reflected in an elevated and integrated structure that works across the dimensions of the interference toolkit and stands above the interests of individual agencies. Policy measures cannot get stuck between the cracks of different bureaucratic silos or tiers of government. Australia’s Turnbull government has established a national Counter Foreign Interference coordinator, which integrates intelligence and enforcement and elevates the challenge to a similar status as counter-terrorism.51 In the United States, however, the Executive Branch continues to lack a coordinated and integrated approach. 

An effective strategy needs to build resilience and engage in muscular deterrence without undermining the democratic institutions that are being defended. If authoritarian powers rely on covert, corrupting, and coercive tactics, the most obvious democratic antidote is transparency. Shining a light on interference tactics neutralizes their effectiveness and imposes a legitimacy cost on perpetrators. It also helps raise awareness in our societies and make them less susceptible to these tactics. Governments and civil society need to play constructive roles in illuminating threats and ensuring the public availability of reliable analysis and information.

Beijing and Moscow exploit legal loopholes or deficiencies in enforcement. Democracies therefore need to enforce laws intended to prevent corruption and ensure the integrity of financial transactions through strong transparency and disclosure regimes. The Australian parliament is considering a new legislative framework, which bans foreign political donations, introduces criminal sanctions against covert interference, and imposes an expansive new foreign influence transparency regime. In the United States, Congress is considering several bills to address parts of the challenge, but the prospects for these measures are unclear amid partisanship and a lack of executive branch leadership. Well-documented and publicized investigations and prosecutions will serve to enhance transparency.  

Countering foreign interference will require political will and new capabilities including resources for enforcement, technical capacity to detect and understand threats, and an array of new policy tools. In the case of China, it will require linguistic capability and deep knowledge of Chinese Communist Party organization, ideology, and history. Sustained progress will require political unity, as partisan divisions will be ruthlessly exploited.

But an effective counter strategy cannot be just defensive—it must include robust deterrence and measures to raise the costs of hostile activity. The covert, deniable and incremental nature of interference operations introduces challenges for traditional deterrence measures. Nonetheless, raising and imposing costs will be critical. 

Effective deterrence will require declaratory policies that make clear that covert, coercive, or corrupting activities by foreign states will be met with forceful consequences. Deterrence measures should be tailored to specific actors and build on democracies’ own advantages, which may also be asymmetric. In the case of the Kremlin, this entails targeting its financial coffers—much of which were stolen from the Russian people—that are largely invested in the West and which remain critical to Putin’s retention of power. In the case of the CCP, this will include exposing front entities and imposing reputational costs for illegal and hypocritical behavior. Western democracies need to exploit the CCP’s sensitivity to being called out—puncture its conspiracy of silence—and not succumb to Beijing’s pressure to discourage debate to protect the bilateral relationship. In undertaking these efforts, however, it will be critical to clearly differentiate between authoritarian government perpetrators and the people of those countries.


The differences in Beijing and Moscow’s operations, tactics, and methods derive from their historical traditions and their current strategic positions and trajectories. Putin acts as a wounded animal: declining in power, with little to lose. Moscow has a far greater tolerance for being “caught” and suffering reputational damage than Beijing. In the longer-term, however, Beijing’s more incremental, nuanced and strategic play for the center of democratic societies is more insidious and difficult to counter.52 In both cases, their interference operations are growing too brazen and aggressive for sovereign democratic nations to ignore. The challenges presented by each will be amplified to the extent that there is coordination between them.53

Democracies have enduring strengths which can counter authoritarian interference—provided they can muster the political will. The first step toward addressing the threat is to acknowledge the problem and sustain an open and honest public conversation. But this is complicated by the actions of Beijing and Moscow to shape the information environment, discredit critics, exploit societal divisions and cultivate proxies to speak on their behalf. Resilience and deterrence will require politically difficult domestic measures that address vulnerabilities, close loopholes for corruption, and introduce strain into bilateral relationships with Beijing and Moscow. To counter authoritarian interference, democracies will need to play to their own asymmetric strengths and work with each other to form their own United Front.

1. John Garnaut “How China Interferes in Australia,” Foreign Affairs, March 9, 2018,; Anne-Marie Brady, “Magic Weapons: China’s Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping,” Wilson Center, September 16, 2017,; Mark Galeotti, “Controlling Chaos: How Russia Manages Its Political War in Europe,” European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2017,

2. Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig, “The Meaning of Sharp Power: How Authoritarian States Project Influence,” Foreign Affairs, November 16, 2017,

3. This category is broader than the definition in section 4 ASIO Act:

4. Malcolm Turnbull, “Speech Introducing the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017,” December 7, 2017,

5. Garnaut, “How China Interferes in Australia.”

6. Nicole Gaouette, “Russia, China Push Back on a US-Led World,” CNN, September 21, 2017,

7. “World Bank Open Data: GDP,” The World Bank, accessed April 9, 2018,

8. Susan B. Glasser, “Trump vs Putin? Time to Be ‘Scared,’” The Global Politico, April 9, 2018,; Julia Ioffe, “What Putin Really Wants,” The Atlantic, January 2018,

9. Ellen Barry and David E. Sanger. “Poisoned Door Handle Hints at High-Level Plot to Kill Spy, U.K. Officials Say,” The New York Times, April 1, 2018,; Heidi Blake, Tom Warren, Richard Holmes, Jason Leopold, Jane Bradley, and Alex Campbell, “From Russia With Blood,” BuzzFeed, June 15, 2017.

10. Brady, “Magic Weapons.”

11. Gerry Groot, Managing Transitions: The Chinese Communist Party, United Front Work, Corporatism and Hegemony (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004); Lyman P. Van Slyke, Enemies and Friends: The United Front in Chinese Communist History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1967).

12. Alex Joske, “Framing the Australia-China Relationship,” The Strategist, April 24, 2018,

13. Mark Galeotti, “The ‘Trump Dossier,’ or How Russia Helped America Break Itself,” Tablet Magazine, June 13, 2017,

14. Mark Galeotti, “Controlling Chaos: How Russia Manages Its Political War in Europe,” European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2017,

15. Deng Xiaoping’s June 9, 1989 speech to martial law units: “I once told foreigners that our worst omission of the past ten years was in education. What I meant was political education… This has been our biggest omission.’ Deng Xiaoping, “Speech to Martial Law Units,” TSquare.Tv, June 9, 1989,

16. Gerry Groot, “The Rise and Rise of the United Front Work Department Under Xi,” The Jamestown Foundation, April 24, 2018,

17. Phila Siu, “What’s the ‘Dirty Secret’ of Western Academics Who Self-Censor Work on China?” South China Morning Post, April 21, 2018,

18. The Obama administration senior official for Asia, Evan Medeiros, in relation to the Belt & Road Initiative: “It’s harder to mobilize national resources, it’s harder to mobilize allies and partners, when there is uncertainty about the nature of the challenge.”  Keith Johnson and Dan De Luce, “One Belt, One Road, One Happy Chinese Navy,” Foreign Policy, April 17, 2018,

19. Heather A Conley, et. al., “The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 13, 2016,

20. Ibid.

21. In August 2016, the Australian government commissioned a high level classified investigation, which has fed into a series of intelligence agency warnings and galvanized policy responses. The Australian analysis has reportedly had a “catalytic” impact on the US government: “Australia Concerns Over China Influence Spark US Probe,” The Australian, January 12, 2018,

22. Olesya Astakhova, “Russia’s Rosneft Elects Former German Chancellor Schroeder as Chairman,” Reuters, September 29, 2017.

23. “Brief of Former National Security Officials as Amici Curiae in Support of Neither Party” (, December 8, 2017),

24. Tim Dickinson, “Inside the Decade-Long Russian Campaign to Infiltrate NRA and Elect Trump,” Rolling Stone, April 2, 2018,

25. Kara Scannell and Shimon Prokupecz, “Exclusive: Mueller’s Team Questioning Russian Oligarchs,” CNN, April 4, 2018,

26. Susan B. Glasser, “Trump vs Putin? Time to Be ‘Scared,’” The Global Politico, April 9, 2018,

27. John Garnaut, “My Friend, the Writer Who ‘Disappeared,’” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 29, 2011,

28. Philip Wen, “Controversial Chairman Mao Tribute Concerts Sharpen Chinese Community Divide,” The Sydney Morning Herald, August 22, 2016,

29. Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske, “Review of the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017,” Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, (2017),

30. James Massola and Nick McKenzie, “Andrew Robb’s Secret China Contract: Money for Nothing,” The Sydney Morning Herald, December 5, 2017,

31. Greg Sheridan, “Malcolm Turnbull’s Chinese Double: Dishonour and Defeat,” The Australian, March 30, 2017,

32. China’s security chief, Meng Zhengzhu, “said it would be a shame if Chinese government representatives had to tell the Chinese community in Australia that Labor did not support the relationship between Australia and China.” Primrose Riordan, “China’s Veiled Threat to Bill Shorten on Extradition Treaty,” The Australian, December 5, 2017,

33. Greg Sheridan, “Malcolm Turnbull’s Chinese Double.”

34. “Power and Influence: The Hard Edge of China’s Soft Power,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, June 5, 2017,

35. Martin Hala, “China’s Gift to Europe Is a New Version of Crony Capitalism,” The Guardian, April 18, 2018,

36. Peter Mattis, “U.S. Responses to China’s Foreign Influence Operations,” § House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific (2018),

37. Josh Rogin, “Waking up to China’s Infiltration of American Colleges,” The Washington Post, February 18, 2018,

38. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, “This Beijing-Linked Billionaire Is Funding Policy Research at Washington’s Most Influential Institutions,” Foreign Policy, November 28, 2017,

39. Brady, “Magic Weapons.”

40. Peter Pomerantsev, “Russia’s Ideology: There Is No Truth,” The New York Times, December 11, 2014,

41. Peter Mattis, “Contrasting China’s and Russia’s Influence Operations,” War on the Rocks, January 16, 2018,

42. “Power and Influence”; Garnaut “How China Interferes in Australia.”

43. Lulu Yilun Chen, “WeChat Censoring Messages Even Outside China, Study Says,” Bloomberg, December 1, 2016,

44. For instance, in July 2017, COCO01, a “content mill” (the Chinese version of a troll factory), started spreading false rumors that the Taiwanese government was preparing to strictly regulate local Buddhist and Taoist temples and was threatening to end freedom of religion after the government sought to raise awareness about environmental damage from incense and paper burning. The disinformation campaign resulted in over 10,000 people protesting in the capital.

45. Melissa Hooper, “Russian Influence in Europe,” Human Rights First, January 11, 2017,

46. Zheping Huang, “A Chinese Paper Used Fake News to Play up Xi Jinping’s Influence at Davos,” Quartz, January 26, 2018,

47. Peter Mattis, “Contrasting China’s and Russia’s Influence Operations.”

48. See,

49. “Democracy Continues Its Disturbing Retreat,” The Economist, January 31, 2018,

50. Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, “The Democratic Disconnect,” Journal of Democracy 27, no. 3 (2016): 24–35.

51. Simon Benson, “Crack Unit to Ward Off Spy Attacks,” The Australian, April 25, 2018,

52. Tara Francis Chan, “Ex-Turnbull adviser warns countries have ‘failed to recognise’ China’s attempts to influence other nations, including Australia,” Business Insider Australia, March 22, 2018,

53. Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, after  meeting Russia’s defense minister Sergey Shoygu in Beijing on April 24, 2018: “China and Russia also will jointly protect the security interests of both countries and maintain regional strategic balance.”