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A class at the Community College of Denver's Confucius Institute. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

China's global influence campaigns are drawing heightened responses, from a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate and anti-interference laws in Australia to new legislation in Germany that would limit Chinese investment in media.

Why it matters: Under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has more openly wielded power abroad, trying to influence other countries’ political debates, media coverage and education systems. These efforts extend China's authoritarian control of information, manipulate discussions of its policies and intimidate ethnic Chinese populations around the world.

Details: Beyond the hard power of military and economic coercion, China is expanding its soft power to “sell” an image of itself through its own state media and content-sharing deals with foreign outlets. It also deploys "sharp power" to manipulate other societies, often through misinformation.

  • Chinese broadcaster CGTN and newswire Xinhua have opened new foreign bureaus and filled many with journalists from CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC and other well-regarded outlets. Beijing exerts outsized influence over the international Chinese-language press (including within the U.S.), limiting international scrutiny of China.
  • China's propagandistic state news outlets have amassed staggering, if perhaps slightly inflated, numbers of Facebook followers, nearly all of them outside China (where Facebook is blocked).
  • Confucius Institutes that offer language and culture training at universities have promoted censorship by blocking conference materials and fostering "formal and informal speech codes" around sensitive issues.
  • China's United Front Work Department has expanded and been given a larger global role to suppress criticism and covertly influence ethnic Chinese associations, political parties, campus organizations and other groups.

Where it stands: The gains from China's influence apparatus have so far been mixed. CGTN is only the 10th most popular network in Asia, for example, and has struggled to reach audiences in other regions. But these efforts have sparked backlashes in some states, and its sharp power can end up hurting its soft power.

The bottom line: China's influence operations are far-reaching, consequential efforts that merit vigilance, even if they have not all proved as successful as Beijing intended.

Joshua Kurlantzick is senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.