The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) holds absolute command over its state media outlets while using increasingly advanced technologies to spread disruptive propaganda worldwide. In 2016, Chinese Communist dictator Xi Jinping told Chinese state television that China must work to create a more internationally influential image.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created opportunities for the CCP to manipulate China’s historical narrative using expulsion of foreign correspondents, disinformation campaigns, and other methods to hide the truth.
Nevertheless, Western media seems to have debunked Beijing’s attempts to sell this “China Dream.”
“Since COVID, we can see how Beijing has activated this information infrastructure to spread its own narrative, bolstered by state-backed disinformation campaigns and medical diplomacy,” a correspondent from the International Federation of Journalists stated.
According to a BBC Radio 4 program in March this year, China is guilty of using disinformation tactics and aggressive wolf-warrior diplomacy to manipulate its target audiences. A well-known CCP propaganda spreader is Chinese politician Zhao Lijian. The Chinese foreign ministry deputy director caused a Twitter uproar in March when he suggested COVID-19 originated in the United States.
Furthermore, the CCP is allegedly using millions of citizens to keep tabs on and regulate online public opinions of China. These members are paid 0.5 yuan per post, thus the group’s nickname “The 50 Cent Army.” This online army has reportedly lurked for quite some time on the internet, aggressively defending the Communist Chinese government and the nation’s international image.
In 2019, this shadow army attacked Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests by circulating violent footage of the demonstrations and labeling them as terrorism. Peaceful footage was censored. This group has also called for restrictions on rare earth and pharmaceutical exports in response to the Trump administration’s Huawei sanctions and encouraged boycotts of Western companies opposing the Uyghur labour exploitation involved in Xinjiang’s cotton production.
China’s Ministry of Education has also been using its global Confucius Institute System, launched in 2004, to inject CCP propaganda into our offline lives. The US Senate voted to defund this educational program in March this year. The US Department of State labelled the program as “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on US campuses and K through 12 classrooms.”
The China Initiative, established by the US Department of Justice in 2018, is also a counter-response to China’s relentless, ongoing disinformation and espionage campaigns in the US. A notable achievement of the Initiative was the arrest of eight CCP affiliates who were part of Beijing’s Operation Fox Hunt, a campaign intended to repatriate so-called corrupt Chinese fugitives. Top US political figures controlled by the CCP, like Roger Stone, the former aide to President Trump, are also operating to deport anti-CCP dissidents.
A prominent target of this operation is Guo Wengui, known in English as Miles Guo. Mr Guo is a Chinese dissident and leader of the global Chinese Whistleblower Movement, exposing the CCP’s corruption. His activism makes him a top target for the CCP; hence he fled to the US and has not returned to China since his escape.
Another target is Jack Ma, the former Alibaba executive chairman, whose disappearance was predicted by Mr Guo almost two years ago. Rumours of jail or exile swamped the Chinese magnate following his October speech that criticised China’s financial regulators and state-owned banks. Communist Chinese authorities crushed Mr Ma’s Alibaba and Ant Group using accusations including economic monopoly and record fines.
The Financial Times reports Mr Ma was also removed from his role as President of Hupan University, the country’s highest-ranking tertiary executive training school. According to a university source, China’s communist authorities feared Mr Ma was building a network at Hupan that would compete with the CCP’s objectives. Although Mr Ma’s philanthropic achievements in China had earned him a good reputation among many Western political leaders, the CCP’s disinformation campaign effectively destroyed him.
The CCP’s uses propaganda and disinformation to progress its destruction of human freedom, and modern digital technology has enhanced these methods’ complexity and psychological impact. A report by Ishan Sharma, a digital technology expert and member of the Federation of American Scientists, suggests the US should counter foreign digital authoritarianism through increased responsible domestic digital surveillance to detect members of shadow groups like the 50 Cent Army.
London Daily Post. (June 6, 2021). How Chinese disinformation campaigns hurt global democracy.