What is an index? Why use it?

Many concepts are broad with multiple dimensions and cannot be captured through one single measurement. For example, the concept of “freedom” is complex and spans the areas of politics, economics, and others. An index can capture broad definitions by combining multiple Indicators into a standardized score.

How is the China Index constructed? What is the rationale behind it?

The China Index seeks to establish an interactive world map that visualizes the PRC’s evolving influence in different countries. The Index captures PRC influence across nine Domains: Academia, Domestic Politics, Economy, Foreign Policy, Law Enforcement, Media, Military, Society, and Technology. Each of these Domains contains 11 Indicators corresponding to an observable phenomenon of PRC influence, and presents comparable data collected by regional partners through collaboration with local experts. Furthermore, each Indicator is assigned one of three layers that classify PRC influence: exposure, pressure, and effect. These three layers form a causal chain, from exposure via pressure to effect, that captures the PRC influence process.

How are the Indicators chosen? Can they reflect the extent to which PRC exerts its influence in respective countries?

Doublethink devised the Indicators in collaboration with our Index Committee, consisting of eight international experts in PRC influence operations and international relations. Taken together, the Indicators are the first research effort to compile PRC influence into a single set of observable phenomena that can be compared between countries and regions. In subsequent years, the Index Committee will reconvene to update the Indicators as PRC influence techniques evolve. CITW will then distribute the renewed Indicators to partners and update the China Index.

What does the score mean? Does it mean that the higher score one country gets, the more influence the PRC exerts on that country?

Scores should be regarded in relative terms. When country A scores higher than country B, it indicates that PRC has more influence in country A relative to country B. The scores thus allow comparison between countries and regions.

How are the scores assigned? Do they involve personal opinions from the local experts?

Indicators are distributed to local experts through regional partners in Index countries who provide factual evidence for whether a phenomenon of PRC influence is observed or not. Considering the challenge of collecting data on a global scale, the Index solely employs fact-based Indicators that are framed to avoid eliciting opinions, preferences, or judgements from respondents. To minimize potential bias, we ask regional partners to audit and verify the data with as many local experts as possible. All responses in the affirmative to Indicators must be supported by documentary evidence; this supporting evidence is published alongside Indicators in the China Index. Responses are reviewed, quantified, and normalized to provide Country Profile and Domain scores and rankings.

Why is the score of a particular country so low or high? Why does the score not reflect my understanding of the PRC's influence in this particular country?

It is possible that the score of a particular country does not meet individual or even widely-held expectations. That is because the Index is designed to broadly characterize the PRC’s influence through multiple Indicators in different Domains, rather than focusing on single instances or factors that command significant attention.

Does the Index entail any quality assurance procedures?

Yes. We require that at least two experts agree on every Indicator response, and that all affirmative Indicator responses are supported by documentary evidence. We also conduct internal validity analysis (e.g. determining bivariate and multivariate correlations among Indicators), and will be working on external validation in the near future.