China’s party-state propaganda apparatus is ramping up its global disinformation efforts ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Writing for The Diplomat magazine, Jianli Yang, president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, and Nick Monaco, an expert researcher of Chinese disinformation, warned that 2022 is bound to be a turbulent year for Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to the article, Xi has to deal with a slew of key issues including diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the COVID-19 pandemic under his zero-COVID policy, and, most importantly, his third term as China’s leader.
In a bid to deal with these challenges, the writers say the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda wing will push the boundaries with its disinformation campaigns.
The CCP has long engaged in information warfare to manipulate public opinion. However, Beijing has recently stepped up its global efforts, showing some new patterns and characteristics unseen before.
This Mao Zedong-style “people’s war” on global public opinion is alarming as China’s covert propaganda operation is getting bigger by the day, according to Washington based The Diplomat.
Last year, a report found out that “the militarization of China’s internet trolls” resulted in an over 20 million strong so-called volunteer internet army under the Communist Youth League (CYL).
Ryan Fedasiuk, Georgetown University scholar last year revealed that this internet army could easily flood international social media platforms if it jumped the Great Firewall.
According to the report, this “army” consists of college students and members of the CYL, whose job is patrolling internet commentators and public opinion guides.
Ahead of Beijing Games, China’s internet army has intensified its efforts to carry out tasks of causing chaos among human rights activists overseas.
The Washington-based magazine said spamouflage’s campaign began focusing on Olympics messaging in December 2021. China has greatly increased efforts to disguise its online messaging abroad to make its disinformation more effective.
In recent years, China has started recruiting foreign vloggers to amplify the community part’s messages. Another tactic the CCP has deployed is localizing Chinese propaganda for audiences abroad, specifically by sending Chinese influencers to spread propaganda in local languages.
“Even though US social media companies have taken measures to remove China’s state-linked information operations, it is not enough to deal with this industrial scale and for-profit model of Chinese propaganda,” according to Jianli Yang and Nick Monaco.
They say that China has not fully used its capacity to carry out this “people’s war” on global public opinion. “When it does, China could overwhelm international social media with overt and covert information operations.”