Chinese security forces’ recent remarkable escalation of tensions along disputed boundaries with Japan, Taiwan, India and Southeast Asian countries is the latest manifestation of actions China takes to exert and advance influence in international affairs. The tool kit used by strongman ruler Xi Jinping goes well beyond conventional methods of building and exerting foreign influence. Those conventional methods involve building closer political, economic, and security relations with other countries and multilateral groups. They provide the main metrics used in existing foreign assessments of Chinese foreign policy influence.

However, recent reports by various foreign specialists and media show existing foreign assessments are insufficient in determining the full extent of China’s actual influence. Those disclosures and investigations highlight unconventional Chinese government actions and levers of influence abroad that were heretofore disguised, hidden, denied, or otherwise neglected or unappreciated in foreign assessments of China’s foreign relations. If successfully employed, those unconventional actions and levers of influence foreshadow major changes in the world order averse to preserving the international status quo.

For those interested in a comprehensive view of China’s foreign relations, the watch list below highlights a range of practices used by China to exert influence abroad that need to be considered in determining the full extent of Beijing’s international influence.