CCP Threat in the Digital Space - The U.S. Department of State on Sept. 28 released the “Global Engagement Center Special Report: How the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment,” which claimed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has invested billions of dollars in a strategic campaign of disinformation around the world, designed to manipulate the global information space.
The U.S. Department of State on Sept. 28 released the “Global Engagement Center Special Report: How the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment,” which claimed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has invested billions of dollars in a strategic campaign of disinformation around the world, designed to manipulate the global information space.
“Beijing seeks to maximize the reach of biased or false pro-PRC content,” the report reads.
The State Department also warned that the CCP’s actions were not merely a matter of diplomatic misstep but a challenge to information integrity and availability around the world.
Beijing’s reaction was typical of the CCP. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement denying any culpability, claiming that “The U.S. Department of State report is in itself disinformation as it misrepresents facts and truth.”
The issue, of course, is that the U.S. State Department’s accusations are true and firmly supported by years of investigations and public reports. The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) attempts to control the flow of information outside of China by silencing dissent, spying on the Chinese diaspora, and disseminating overseas propaganda. The CCP employs influencers, online bots, and troll armies to support its efforts to shape the narrative around Taiwan, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea.
Additionally, the UFWD pushes news stories and online information against the United States and in support of Beijing’s foreign policies. In Latin America and Africa, the CCP exploits its relationships with local media to shape the narrative and dispel criticism of Chinese investment projects and debt-trap diplomacy.
Another tool in the CCP’s online arsenal is the "wumao army" or "50 cent army," people who post on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. First documented about 20 years ago, the wumao are believed to number in the hundreds of thousands. They work around the clock on social media, pushing CCP propaganda or countering content that the CCP disapproves of.
Russia is increasingly alienated from the international order, so Moscow and Beijing are working together to control the information space. This is evident in online efforts by both countries to support the Kremlin’s narrative on the Russo-Ukraine War. To achieve this goal, the CCP’s state-backed trolls have spread disinformation about the Kyiv government and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In February last year, the two countries issued the “Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development,” which included numerous references to collaboration in information society and security. The problem with totalitarian regimes discussing information security is that the leaders will determine which information poses a threat and whether information must be protected or censored.
The U.S. intelligence community is concerned that Beijing’s hacker capabilities go beyond manipulating the information space and could be applied to direct attacks on critical infrastructure or military targets. The People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398, the CCP’s official hacker unit, was uncovered in 2013, operating under several names, including APT 1, Comment Crew, Comment Panda, TG-8223, Group 3, and GIF89a. They engage in spyware, ransomware, data theft, cyber espionage, and other online attacks against the United States and other governments, as well as against media and people critical of the regime.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s 2023 Annual Threat Assessment states that China “probably currently represents the broadest, most active, and persistent cyber espionage threat to the U.S. Government and private-sector networks ... China almost certainly is capable of launching cyber attacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the United States, including against oil and gas pipelines, and rail systems.”
In May this year, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a cybersecurity advisory regarding activity by a CCP state-backed cyber actor known as Volt Typhoon, which was believed to pose a threat to both infrastructure and private companies.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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