Non-state actors as state proxies: A new Hybrid Coe Research Report looks at the situation in China

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long traditions of using political influence and interference methods, which would be described as hybrid threat activities today. The use of non-state actors (NSAs) is a key element in such activities.

In Hybrid Coe Research Report 1, Dr Jukka Aukia from the University of Turku applies the hybrid threat paradigm to study Chinese non-state actors.

According to the report, longstanding developments in China’s political system and thinking dictate strong public-private collaboration. This approach is known as the “united front” (tongyi zhanxian). Equating “love for the Party” with “love for the country”, the united front builds ethnic-based nationalism, which is produced top-down by party elites and bottom-up by active patriotic citizens.

“As a result of the united front approach, a large repertoire of NSAs as state proxies create opportunities and capabilities for the Party,” writes Aukia.

According to the report, the political control of the Party has advanced in all non-state, non-party organizations under the leadership of Xi Jinping. The CCP has effectively developed capacities to direct the non-state sector to support regime preservation, which is the Party’s highest priority. The united front enables the Party to use the same influence tools both domestically and internationally.

In analyzing the use of non-state actors abroad, the report looks at united front-related actors, state-controlled enterprises, state-organized NGOs, as well as media- and academia-related actors and their activities. According to Aukia, “while not all Chinese entities are state proxies, as Chinese social and business organizations continue to internationalize, the blurring of state and non-state sectors extends beyond China’s borders.”

In developing countermeasures, the report emphasizes the importance of analyzing two frameworks in particular: the domestic experiences of the CCP, and the vulnerabilities of democratic societies.

Read the whole report on our website here.

By examining China’s expanding use of united front tactics inside democratic societies, as well as the ideological, cultural and political elements underlying this trend, this Research Report marks a significant step forward in Hybrid CoE’s capabilities to analyze China and its practices. The report offers timely, thorough, and practicable knowledge for the Centre’s Participating States and institutions as they enhance their resilience and deterrence against hybrid threat activities. The report is part of Hybrid CoE’s ongoing workstrand on non-state actors.

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