China’s Propaganda Operations in the US

Chinese Infiltration Aided by Politicians, Corporations, and Media

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“China is becoming a normal nation! China wants the same thing as us! We are changing China!” These sentiments, expressed in an article in the Atlantic, mirror Joe Biden’s claims that China is no threat. When he supported China entering the World Trade Organization, he was following a long line of American politicians who believed that by allowing China into global institutions, America could influence China. Instead, China is influencing global institutions and almost every sphere of American life.

An excellent example was seen when the Houston Rockets apologized to China because their manager tweeted in support of the Hong Kong pro-Democracy protesters. The NBA apparently put the millions of dollars it would lose in Chinese sponsorship and TV deals ahead of ideals such as free speech and democracy. The US government passed the Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act, which not only supports human rights and democracy in Hong Kong, but allows the US to sanction those who do not. Effectively, the Houston Rockets apologized to China for sending a tweet which was in keeping with US policy but was in violation of the policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A US corporation should not be apologizing for supporting US government policy, particularly when that policy supports democracy and human rights.

Chinese propaganda, seen on American social media, claimed that the US military had brought the coronavirus to China. According to the Washington Post, Twitter removed 170,000 accounts tied to Chinese state propaganda campaigns. TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese apps are used for data gathering on US citizens, but are also used to disseminate Chinese propaganda. During the pandemic, the “Hug a Chinese” and “Grazie, China” videos allegedly documented the gratitude the people of Italy showed to the CCP for supposedly saving them from the coronavirus that China itself had started.

Chinese propaganda efforts are aided by American media such as the New York Times that collected millions of dollars from the PRC government to run advertorials, paid inserts which looked like news stories. The Washington Post, Financial Times, and other Western media also carry country advertising supplements, many of which are paid for by the Chinese government. For decades, China Daily, an official mouthpiece of the CCP, has been purchasing advertorial spaces in the pages of mainstream U.S. media outlets including the Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times has since ended their relationship with China, a move which was applauded by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a member of the Congressional China Task Force, whose goal it is to mitigate the distribution of Chinese propaganda in the US. As a result of China masking propaganda as news, the US now requires many Chinese journalists to register as foreign missions. Under Trump administration legislation, state-owned Chinese media outlets Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corp. and Hai Tian Development USA, must all register as foreign missions.

China Targeting US Governors

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that China was gathering information on US governors to see which could be exploited for economic and political influence. The Associated Press (AP) reported that Secretary Pompeo had cautioned the governors to be wary of “Chinese investment and influence, including through contacts with Chinese diplomats, students, and organizations.” Axios reported that D&C Think, a think tank based in Beijing, in collaboration with Tsinghua University, had compiled and published that the US governors report rated US governors and White House advisors on how “friendly” they are to Beijing.

D&C Think is not state-owned and claims to have no direct affiliation with the government. However, all companies and people in China are obligated by the National Security Law and National Intelligence Law to help promote and further the policies of the CCP. Additionally, the think tank has stated publicly that “it partners with the United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party’s political influence arm, among other organizations.” Despite the previous disclaimer, the connections and loyalty to the CCP are glaringly obvious.

In May 2019, the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force added a unit aimed at countering China’s political influence in the United States. The director of the unit said that China’s influence campaign poses one of the greatest threats faced by both the US and ultimately the world, in decades. Unlike Russia, the Chinese play a long game. Rather than focusing on a particular election, they use their economic power to cultivate and coerce long-term relationships.

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The FBI said that China was looking for governments and companies in need of cash. They advised governors, mayors and business leaders to be careful about where the funds come from, as the Chinese government often works through sponsored entities, making the connection less obvious.

China’s Global Influence

During the Coronavirus pandemic, many in the Trump administration were convinced that China was influencing the World Health Organization, made clear by the collusion between the two to cover-up China’s culpability in the spread of the virus. China lied about person-to-person transmission of the disease and the WHO supported that lie. Taiwanese health authorities had made potentially life-saving breakthroughs, but their research was suppressed by the WHO, which was in line with supporting Communist China’s Taiwan policy. At no point did the WHO criticize China’s handling of the disease, even when there were widespread reports of human rights abuses, such as infected people being trapped in their homes when authorities welded the doors shut.

China exports its censorship abroad, bullying foreign academia, media, educational institutions,  think tanks, and governments to cause them to self-censor and/or to promote a pro-Beijing agenda. The PRC finds its way into controlling positions or positions where it can influence global institutions such as the WHO or the United Nations. Currently, Beijing heads 15 UN specialized agencies, and is a member of the UN Human Rights Council Panel. Beijing also harnesses the power of its own state-run media, academic institutions and think tanks to increase its foreign influence.

Much of their infiltration in foreign governments is meant to establish relationships or dependencies with internal power brokers who can champion pro-Beijing legislation in foreign countries. China engages in these activities in spite of its much touted policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. At the UN, Beijing has actually vetoed intervention in genocide, calling it a strictly internal affair.

China views an intervention by the UN as an infringement on another country’s sovereignty. The US Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 regarding the Muslim concentration camps in Xinjiang and the UN’s demands to tour these camps are seen by Beijing as an infringement on its sovereignty. The Chinese government has called it a malicious attack on China and demanded that the United States not allow it to become law. The Trump administration, ignoring Chinese threats, has not only signed the act into law, but has already begun enforcing sanctions against firms associated with the repression in Xinjiang.

Through its bilateral and multilateral agreements, China partners with totalitarian states such as Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Part of US engagement with these relatively newly independent nations is to help them improve the quality of their democracy. A report from the International Republican Institute examines the malign effects of China’s economic influence and manipulation of the information space worldwide. IRI found that, through a combination of technology, economics and control of information, the CCP makes developing countries dependent on them and undermines the development of democratic institutions.

China has been infiltrating the US and other countries in ways that could not have been imagined. They create databases on citizens, governments, and companies, and compile profiles. They decide who to approach and how in order to gain influence. By threatening to withhold support or cancel lucrative contracts, China convinces American companies, media, and politicians to self-censor and behave in ways that are more advantageous for the CCP and detrimental to their own.

Antonio Graceffo
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