The burgeoning relationship between Chinese and Russian Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin is illustrated by China’s unprecedented support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and increased economic and military ties between the two countries. So far, China and Russia have followed different paths to their goal of weakening democratic institutions and bolstering autocratic governance worldwide. As their interests converge, countries around the world are beginning to experience the compounding effects of their influence efforts.

The Authoritarian Nexus: How Russia and China Undermine Democracy Worldwide is a compendium of nine country case studies, covering Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Sudan, Argentina, Chile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The report examines how the corrosive actions of authoritarian actors overlap and complement one another and, assesses their impact on democratic norms and institutions. The case studies shed light on how powerful malign states try to influence the politics and governance of other nations to achieve favorable outcomes for their respective interests.

Each case is unique. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russian troll farms are indirectly helped by China’s efforts to undermine information integrity. In Montenegro, China and Russia take advantage of deep divides in the population and the media to push their agendas. In North Macedonia, although the research did not find direct cooperation between China and Russia, the two countries rely on the same tactics to pressure local leadership. And in Serbia, the West’s disengagement has boosted Russia and China’s influence.

Both nations exploit weak governments and empower corruption, sometimes in order to make business deals, sometimes in order to influence a country’s politics. To address Argentina’s economic challenges some local leaders are eager to partner with China and Russia, including in ways that undermine rule of law and contribute to democratic backsliding. In neighboring Chile, Russia and China do not appear to be working together, though both countries disseminate anti-U.S. disinformation and propaganda.

In CAR, through mercenary groups like Wagner, Russia supports human rights abuses and instability in exchange for lucrative mineral and mining contracts. China funds projects that exacerbate corruption and environmental damage while disregarding human rights abuses. In Libya, foreign authoritarian states undermine Libya’s attempt to move toward peace and stability. Gulf states back armed groups and online groups who they believe will help further their own regional agendas. Russia funds foreign mercenaries, supports disinformation campaigns, and even printed money for a parallel government.

Download and read our latest report to learn more about how China and Russia are undermining democracy worldwide.

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