Central European countries have recently experienced a degradation of their previous commitment to the democratic ethos. In Hungary, Prime Minister Orbán openly challenged the ideal of liberal democracy, and illiberal tendencies have also been apparent in policies followed by the ruling Smer and Law and Justice parties in Slovakia and Poland, respectively. Under President Zeman, the Czech Republic has turned away from anchoring its foreign policy in shared Euro-Atlantic values. China has entered this environment as an influential new player, one that exploits these developments and threatens to further undermine the countries’ commitment to human rights and weaken their links to democratic ideals of the Euro-Atlantic community.
Project ChinfluenCE maps how China influences political and economic elites and the media in Central Europe in the context of the region. It carried out an extensive content analysis of Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Slovak media to discover how the image of China is constructed, if more intensive bilateral relations led to gradually more positive image of China and whether mainstream media report on the issue differently than alternative media (with a special focus on media with Chinese ownership). It also analyzed parliamentary discourses in the Czech Republic and Hungary, revealing 25 (28 respectively) years of debates on China and changes in political parties’ perceptions of the country.
Finally, the project focuses on describing and comparing Chinese strategy in countries in vogue and concludes with multi-layered advocacy campaign aimed at restoring a democratic and accountable approach to foreign policy formulation in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia and its implementation vis-à-vis China.
The results of the project have been already presented at European Parliament and to Members of US Congress and mentioned in e.g. Reporters without Borders’ report on vulnerability of media or US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2018 Annual Report. ChinfluenCE lead coordinator was quoted by Financial Times, Radio Free Europe, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Le Temps, etc. ChinfluenCE outputs are available at the ChinfluenCE website in the form of policy and briefing papers and articles, and regularly presented at open as well as closed sessions.
The international ChinfluenCE project, designed and coordinated by AMO, has been running since July 2017 in cooperation with the Institute of Asian Studies (Slovakia), Central and the Eastern European Center for Asian Studies (Hungary), with a kind support of the National Endowment for Democracy.