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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

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Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

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Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.