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Far from becoming more democratic, China has lately been backsliding toward hard-line authoritarianism.China's "influence operations," they argue, include cultivating ties with Western politicians, establishing Confucius Institutes around the world to promote Chinese language and culture, expanding the global reach of China's official propaganda networks, and donations to and exchange programs with academic institutions.As a result, even ostensibly independent or private activities can carry political and reputational risks for Western organizations, which may be accused of acting as "agents of influence" for China.For example, public-disclosure requirements regarding the sources and conditions of donations to politicians, political parties, and civic and academic institutions, as well as ownership stakes in media assets, would make it much harder for the Chinese government to exert its influence through ostensibly private actors.Portraying them as a genuine threat to the world's democracies not only betrays the West's own insecurity, but also gives China more credit than it deserves.
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