China uses different tools to increase its influence:
Media and social media: The Chinese government disseminates propaganda through social media and some online and print media in Bulgarian that it owns or funds. For instance, China today (Китай днес) is a weekly covering Chinese domestic and foreign policy and bilateral relations, published by the same team that produces the Bulgarian edition of Russia Today (Русия днес). Other popular media websites include the Bulgarian-language China Radio International website and the We Are China Facebook page.
Leaders’ meetings under the 16/17+1 initiative for economic cooperation: The 16/17+1 summit in Sofia in 2018 concluded with memoranda for $1.75 billion in loans from China Development Bank to small and medium enterprises in Bulgaria, and investments in infrastructure projects.
The Global Partnership Center for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (C-CEEC) in Sofia: Announced at the seventh meeting of C-CEEC leaders in 2019, the center was to be located within of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers. It would offer consultation and advice to government agencies and businesses involved in the 16/17+1 economic initiative and “promote the principles of openness, equality, fairness and transparency of the C-CEEC mechanism”. There is still no evidence of its actual operation, possibly due to the pandemic and a prolonged political crisis in Bulgaria after March 2021.
Development of a Bulgarian-Chinese innovation center in Sofia: Sofia University has volunteered to host the center, which was agreed by the leaders of the two countries in 2018 and which would focus on technologies of the information and the health sciences.
Parliamentary cooperation: The parliamentary group for friendship with China is popular among Bulgarian legislators, second only to the group for friendship with Russia.
Exchange visits/bilateral meetings: For example, the China Association for International Understanding (CAFIU), a Beijing-based institution of the Chinese Communist Party, organized several tours to China for Bulgarian leaders in fields such as academia, journalism and business. She also regularly invites Bulgarian representatives to her international events and co-chairs similar Bulgarian-Chinese forums in Sofia.
Academic structures: One of the main tools for reaching young people is the Confucius Institute in Sofia, the first in the Balkan Peninsula and one of the first in Eastern Europe. Launched in 2006, it was designated a model for the development of Confucius Institutes around the world in 2013. Other centers exist at universities across the country.
Content sharing agreements with local electronic and print media: 24 Chasa, one of the most widely circulated daily newspapers, regularly reproduces excerpts from China Radio International. In addition, Bulgarian National Television has an agreement with China Central Television to broadcast Chinese content on BNT 2 and its other channels, and private television TV-7 broadcasts Chinese content.
Agreements with professional organizations: Specifically, the Union of Bulgarian Journalists and the Union of Chinese Journalists agreed in November 2020 to launch a journalistic forum on solidarity and cooperation.
Business lobbies and associations: For example, the Bulgarian-Chinese Association for Business Development, based in Plovdiv, seeks to promote Bulgarian agricultural products in China. In addition, a Bulgarian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce is active at the national level.