Reveals China’s Current Information Warfare Strategy
The US State Department’s Global Engagement Center released its report on August 24 revealing how China is “actively attempting to manipulate and dominate the global discourse on Xinjiang and discredit independent sources reporting ongoing genocide and of crimes against humanity committed against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic groups”. and minority religious groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region”. The report reveals China’s use of a well-calculated and coordinated strategy in information warfare “to amplify Beijing’s favorite narratives about Xinjiang, drown out and marginalize narratives that criticize the PRC’s repression of Uyghurs. and harass those who criticize the PRC.” .” The main results deserve attention because the same methodology is adopted on other issues against its opponents.
Overall, the Chinese malicious messaging strategy contains four interrelated parts. The first is the flooding of the international information environment to limit access to content that contradicts Beijing’s official line to stifle critical narratives. Second, the fabrication of an artificial appearance of support for PRC policies through fabricated messages, videos and images. Third, the use of sophisticated images generated by artificial intelligence (AI) to create the appearance of authenticity of fake user profiles by Chinese messengers. Fourth, China’s use of cyberbullying, trolling and transnational digital repression to silence dissent.
China floods the information environment with its false messages and disinformation amplifying its narratives to drown out messages it perceives as adverse to its interests in search engines and social media platforms. The Chinese effort aims to flood the news ecosystem with counter-narratives, conspiracy theories and unrelated news articles to suppress narratives detailing atrocities by PRC authorities in Xinjiang.
It is important to note that Chinese institutions dealing with the manipulation of information, engage in “astroturfing” or coordinated campaigns of inauthentic messages to create the illusion of broad grassroots support for a policy. , an individual or a point of view, when such support does not exist. Similar to the floods, the PRC is using astroturf to flood the information space with “positive stories” about Xinjiang and the Uighur population, including fabricated depictions of Uighurs living a “simple and happy life”, as well as messages highlighting the alleged economic gains that the PRC’s policies have brought to Xinjiang. In mid-2021, more than 300 inauthentic pro-PRC accounts posted thousands of videos of Uyghurs appearing to deny abuses in the region and claiming they were “very free”. These videos purported to show widespread disagreement across Xinjiang with international media claims that Uyghurs were oppressed. According to the New York Times and ProPublica, these were created by Chinese propaganda operatives in Xinjiang and later placed on YouTube, Twitter, etc. for wider dissemination.
Crucially, the report also highlights the use of advanced AI-generated content, such as “StyleGAN” machine learning-generated images, to craft realistic profile pictures for their inauthentic accounts. The benefit of using these tools is that they create composite images that cannot be traced using reverse image search, making it difficult to determine if the account is inauthentic. Stolen images of real people can easily be found.
China, like in the physical world, also uses its muscle power in the cyber realm to deal with those who oppose China. China-sponsored transnational crackdown targets those who speak out against the PRC, especially in Chinese diaspora communities, with online and offline harassment to prevent them from sharing their stories or to intimidate them into self-censorship . The trolling campaigns are designed “to silence those who speak out against the Dragon, poison the information environment with bad faith arguments, and silence opposing viewpoints.” Importantly, the report also highlights that trolling campaigns frequently turn into threats of death, rape or assault; malicious cyberattacks; and cyberbullying or harassment through doxing. Doxing is a form of cyberbullying that uses sensitive or secret information, statements or records to harass, expose, financially harm or otherwise exploit targeted individuals. This dimension was eye-catching after the 2016 PCA ruling when the Dragon launched cyber attacks on the Philippines and Vietnam.
Chinese accounts from Xinjiang focus on denying criticism and amplifying “positive stories” in an effort to counter accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity. The PRC’s most aggressive messengers often go on the offensive, creating false equivalences with the actions of other countries to distract international criticism from the PRC’s behavior. The Chinese messengers avoid mentioning the forced labor camps, its attempts at social engineering or “population genocide”. The attempt remains first to confuse the targets and create doubts about the authenticity of the negative messages and later to make the target accept the false narrative peddled by the Chinese machinery. These operations are carefully designed by analyzing personal data to have maximum impact.
The report also points out that the Chinese government and the CCP are designing the operations to specifically focus on young media consumers around the world and building foreign propaganda to be more “younger” and viral while strictly adhering to the “lines political reds. Significantly, they create social media content in at least 38 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian, with an average reach of 309,000 followers.
These efforts are bolstered by the Chinese government and CCP-affiliated media such as China Global Television Network, China Daily, China Radio International, Global Times and Xinhua produce content in at least 12 languages and devote significant resources to network advertising. social. Moreover, Chinese wolf-warrior diplomats regularly spit venom against China’s critics.
The Chinese reactions go in the expected direction. The Global Times, in an article accusing the United States, said that “the trick of the United States is crystal clear – to use its dominance in the global discourse and its shamelessness in the geopolitical game to smear and attack China on all possible fronts, on several levels, and by various means. Of course, the Dragon spokesperson crosses all diplomatic labels.
China has built up a massive machinery for information warfare and uses different organizations for influence operations both in China and abroad. The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) plays a leading role in directing and coordinating “influence operations” globally through its various front organizations. Other PRC government agencies involved in foreign influence operations are the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Education. Important entities used for foreign influence operations include the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), which describes itself as a “national people’s organization engaged in diplomacy among the peoples of the Republic people of China”.
Internet trolls working primarily under the auspices of the People’s Liberation Army, the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission or the Communist Youth League directly attack online critics. The PRC’s Cyberspace Affairs Commission and Central Propaganda Department directly employ about two million people nationwide in this capacity, and another 20 million work part-time as “Network Civilization Volunteers.” perception of targets. His RedFoxtrot group targets several networks of Indian defence, telecommunications, mining and research organizations, including several aerospace and defense contractors.
The US report discloses China’s overall information warfare and influence operations strategy. India should pay attention to Chinese programs over India-specific activities. How China penetrates young minds needs to be studied. Some politicians have also reflected their fondness for Chinese views. We see some so-called experts in international relations peddling Chinese policies or creating fear over the prowess and its invincibility. There are several reports of personal data theft in India. These may have been used to target influential people and groups. It is necessary to be equipped to counter the growing Chinese activities in the cyber field by having an effective strategy accompanied by robust infrastructures.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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