Home / Analysis / China’s foreign election interference: an overview of its global impact


  • China has interfered in many democratic elections around the world in the post-Cold War period. Interventions have varied in terms of their aims and methods. Some have been partisan, aimed at supporting pro-China candidates, while others have had more hostile intent, aimed at discrediting and sabotaging the target country’s democratic process.
  • Interference methods include political donations, United Front work, threats and intimidation, information and disinformation campaigns online and in traditional media, as well as cyberattacks. Interference is more common in countries with large Chinese diasporas.
  • Taiwan is the most important target of Chinese election interference. China has interfered in every election held in Taiwan and applied almost every method at its disposal there. Almost every interference method was used in Taiwan before it was seen in other countries. The Taiwan case also includes methods unseen anywhere else, such as threats of war.
  • Canada was subject to Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. These campaigns were heavily partisan towards the Liberal Party and mostly took the shape of donations to individual candidates, but intimidation against unwanted candidates also occurred.
  • The United States experienced a notable case of interference with the 1996 “Chinagate” campaign financing scandal. Since 2022, the main interference method has been online (dis)information campaigns. These are mostly nonpartisan and seem aimed at sabotaging and discrediting the democratic system. Ahead of the 2024 election, however, some campaigns have shifted to a pro-Trump position.
  • Australia has experienced several cases of mostly partisan Chinese interference in both local and federal elections. Other countries affected include Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea, as well as others where there is limited or disputable evidence. Actual interference could be much more pervasive than the documented evidence indicates, as many cases probably go unnoticed.
  • Thus far, there is no evidence of sustained campaigns to influence election outcomes in European countries, but there is a risk that China might focus more on Europe in the future.

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