Ed note – the recent agreement by a radio station in Kansas City to broadcast Russia Today radio could be another example of just ‘buying your way in.’
The fast build-up and equally sudden decline of Chinese influence in the Czech Republic offers an interesting case study of vulnerability and resilience in the newly democratic small states targeted by the united front operations of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Recent revelations about a powerful Czech financial corporation manipulating public opinion in favor of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) demonstrate the complex dynamics between political and economic actors—both Chinese and local—and how private companies are being leveraged to spread pro-PRC propaganda.
The PRC’s main vector of influence in the Czech Republic has been through “economic diplomacy,” which downplays political differences and emphasizes the economic opportunities of engagement with China. In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the PRC builds on promises of investments into local economies still lagging behind those in Western Europe. The promised investments may or may not materialize, but the economic enticement alone creates a conducive environment for the cooptation of local political and business elites in a manner similar to more traditional united front tactics. Apart from the promised investments, the reverse allure may consist of market access in China for local companies, which may then be manipulated into becoming propaganda echo chambers for the CCP. The Czech Republic offers examples of both of these phenomena.