Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is grooming ‘future authoritarians’ in developing countries, says US think tank 

A latest report by American think tank Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub has found that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been exporting communist ideology and authoritarian control systems to developing countries under the guise of “business training” programmes.

According to the Atlantic Council’s new report titled “A Global South with Chinese characteristics”, 795 online seminars were offered to foreign government officials in the ‘Global South’ countries in 2021 and 2022, funded and run by the ruling CCP’s Ministry of Commerce, promoting “an autocratic approach to governance” and pushing the narrative that authoritarian control is essential for economic development.

As per reports, the term ‘Global South’ refers to developing nations, which are mostly (but not exclusively) in the southern hemisphere, including India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and most countries in Africa and Latin America.

The Washington-based think tank said its findings are based on 1,691 files obtained from the Academy for International Business Officials (AIBO) under the CCP’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). 

According to the report, the AIBO that trains CCP cadres in the ministry has been in coordination with the Chinese communist regime’s embassies to promote its online seminars in the Global South, while at least 21,123 individuals participated in the CCP’s online seminars over the two-year period.

The report added that the Asian major has long pursued foreign acceptance of Chinese political narratives and encouraged their adoption to further China’s interests.

The Atlantic Council’s report investigates a new dataset of Chinese government files on such training programmes, uncovering how the CCP regime uses these sessions to directly promote ideas and practices that marry economics and politics to make a case for its authoritarian capitalism model.

“Beyond encouraging sympathy for Chinese narratives among officials across the Global South, the programmes also provide practical assistance for host countries to fast-track adaptation of Chinese practices,” the report added.

Author of the report, researcher Niva Yau — a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, categorized the training programmes into six groups based on their contents to analyze how they serve “China’s broader ambitions to undermine the liberal democratic norms that currently underpin the global order.”

The first two groups are labeled “clearly authoritarian” and “potentially authoritarian” and have lessons on the Chinese Communist Party’s practices that violate personal freedom, including “non-democratic regime practices” such as “administrative control over the media, information, and population,” according to the report.

As per the report, training programmes that fall into two other groups, “information operation access” and “security access” are centered on activities that serve the Communist regime’s “intelligence-collection purposes” and help further the Chinese government’s access to foreign countries’ information operations and security infrastructure.

The CCP’s ideology, including President Xi Jinping’s writings, is included in the training curriculum. So is the promotion of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a large infrastructure loan programme for developing countries that serves to expand the CCP’s political influence, according to the report.

The Atlantic Council report noted that the China model promoted in the training and activities is rooted in the CCP’s political ideology, including the centralization of power and the economy.

The training programmes encourage “sympathy for Chinese narratives among officials across the Global South,” as per the report. 

The report sees the programmes as part of broader propaganda efforts by the CCP regime to craft positive narratives about China and the benefits of engaging with China.

According to the report, evidence in the newly obtained 2021 and 2022 files indicates that the objectives of Chinese governmental training programmes for foreign officials have changed significantly as training programmes are no longer foreign assistance programmes with primarily humanitarian assistance aims, but clearly serve to directly inject narratives that marry authoritarian governance with economic development—in other words, to promote an autocratic approach to governance.

The research report shows, citing a cross reference of public releases, that the current protocol of governmental training programmes involves receiving foreign officials sent to mainland China in accordance with bilateral agreements.

The report points out that these training programmes focus on ‘specific areas’, and are centrally planned by the Chinese government with designated regional quotas.

“A review of these ‘specific areas’ also shows that these programmes differ from trainings on humanitarian aid, foreign assistance, and basic skills that Beijing delivered in cooperation with UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] in the 1980s and 1990s,” the report read.

The training programmes repeatedly remind participants that the CCP owes its success to authoritarian governance practices while being critical of democratic practices and principles, said the report, noting that the pattern of promoting autocracy and undermining democracy in developing countries will likely continue given that China’s ruling party is scaling up these types of programmes.

The training programs are part of the CCP doubling down on its goal of expansion in the world’s poorest countries, as per the report.

The Epoch Times reported, quoting Cheng Cheng-ping, a professor of economics at Taiwan’s National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, that the training programmes, which are run by the neutral-sounding Ministry of Commerce, show that the CCP under Xi Jinping has a “systematic approach to influence and dominate the global order that is beyond our imagination.”

The economics professor highlighted that the alliance between the CCP and the Global South has already affected the confrontation with the democratic West.

Chen Shih-min, associate professor of political science at National Taiwan University, told The Epoch Times that China provides the Global South countries with funds and loans through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and unlike the Western countries, Beijing does not require them to promise political freedom and human rights to their people.

“This may lead some of the world’s least developed countries, especially in Africa, where many governments are dictatorships, to move closer to China,” he added.

The report noted that China’s promotion of authoritarian governance and undermining of support for democratic practices and principles is likely to rise across the Global South, with Beijing further scaling up the training programmes.

This effort is integral to China’s drive to transform a global order currently predicated on the centrality of democracy and individual rights to one more “values-agnostic” and thus suited to the country’s rise under authoritarian CCP rule, according to the Atlantic Council report.