Concerns Growing that China’s Influence Operations Getting Bolder

Nike Ching contributed to this report, which includes information from Reuters.Revelations that China has been using social media accounts to influence public opinion on continuing protests in Hong Kong are reinforcing warnings from U.S. intelligence that the battle for information dominance has been joined. Until now, much of the focus on been on Russia for its use of social media to meddle in a number of Western elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and, more recently, the 2018 congressional elections.But top U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly warned Russia is not alone, and that other U.S adversaries would be using lessons from Moscow’s successes for their own purposes.No adversary, they said, posed a bigger threat than China.”The Chinese government uses all of the capabilities at their disposal to influence U.S. policies, spread propaganda, manipulate the media,” former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during a talk last September.Around the same time, President Donald Trump began calling out China for placing ads and stories critical of the U.S.-China trade talks in regional newspapers.China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, made to look like news. That’s because we are beating them on Trade, opening markets, and the farmers will make a fortune when this is over! FILE – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang speaks during a press briefing in Beijing, July 11, 2017, in this image made from video.U.S. reactionThere has also been little public reaction from U.S. officials, though many remain wary.”This is another element of their efforts to manipulate data,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Monday, asked about China’s alleged activity on social media shortly after the news broke.Others have tried to frame the influence campaign as another attempt by Beijing to distract the world’s attention.”The Chinese government chooses to blame the United States rather than address its own governance failures in Hong Kong,” a senior administration official told VOA. “When a quarter of the population takes to the streets to voice their discontent, it’s not because they were tricked into doing it.”Yet there is concern among intelligence officials and analysts that this use of social media shows that the Chinese Communist party, which already controls the information environment inside of China, is moving ambitiously to control the narrative fed to the outside world.”This is a big deal because it’s the first time that we’ve had confirmation of anything like this from any Western social media platforms,” Matt Schrader, a China analyst at The Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, told VOA.”You have to start asking, is China looking beyond Hong Kong? Is it looking beyond Taiwan? Is it practicing these tactics to be able to influence people globally?”




leave a reply