Last month, the State Department's Global Engagement Center (GEC) released a 58-page report warning that Beijing's information campaign could be used to undermine U.S. interests and influence how decisions are made globally. Tasked with combating foreign propaganda and disinformation, the GEC summarizes:
"The PRC employs a variety of deceptive and coercive methods as it attempts to influence the international information environment. Beijing's information manipulation spans the use of propaganda, disinformation, and censorship. Unchecked, the PRC's efforts will reshape the global information landscape, creating biases and gaps that could even lead nations to make decisions that subordinate their economic and security interests to Beijing's."
American Family News spoke to global security expert Ben Varlese, who argues China "has always played the long game" when it comes to geopolitical maneuvering. Regarding the Chinese regime's information warfare and psychological operations, he says the same holds true.
"The rapid expansion and reach of social media has only given [the Chinese regime] the opportunity to exploit low-information voters and other mentally malleable individuals in the West to side with their agenda," he notes.
"China's authoritarianism within its borders is one thing," Varlese continues, giving the example of a social credit system that dictates travel, banking, employment, and more. "However, China also exports this philosophy to its manipulation of the West."
TikTok, the popular short-form video-hosting service, and the use of bots on other social media platforms can have "subtle, or even overt, influence on entertainment and more," he explains.
"A few studies and intelligence analyses have shown Chinese-affiliated groups have used bots to inflame social discord with articles and messaging promoting both right- and left-wing political views," Varlese shares.
He also warns about "secret police stations [that] are used to conduct information warfare and social engineering to be more China-friendly and sow internal conflict."
According to Varlese, Russia gets the blame for much of this. "But [China's tactics are] just as, if not more, pervasive," he adds, noting that the American people hear less about the Chinese regime's nefarious activities due to "[China's] financial investments in media companies and other prominent voices."
And lastly, he argues, "one can't discount the voices of Chinese ex-pats living in Western countries. Often [for many] their families are, for all intents and purposes, held hostage in China, so they spread disinformation to avoid retribution on their kin for something they did abroad."
Unfortunately, Varlese laments, "gullible and altruistic Westerners are suckers" for Chinese propaganda and disinformation. It's tough to combat the nefarious actions of the Chinese Communist Party while Americans continue to appease Chinese interests, he concludes.