The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long sought to influence the media and information space in other countries, and the effort has intensified over the past decade.
For many years, there was no significant evidence that Chinese actors were engaging in aggressive disinformation campaigns like state-run news outlets generating propaganda, which aims to spread proven falsehoods, sow societal discord and panic, manipulate perceptions of public opinion, or undermine the democratic process. However, that has now changed.
A series of exposés demonstrated that pro-Beijing actors are carrying out a whole range of covert activities in multiple countries and languages.
Evidence revealed last year indicated that some Chinese-language campaigns had begun on platforms like Twitter as early as April 2017, but the latest round of incidents and investigations points to a more definitive shift in Chinese influence operations.
Since March, coordinated and covert attempts by China-linked actors to manipulate information — particularly regarding COVID-19 — have been detected in countries including the United States, Argentina, Serbia, Italy, and Taiwan, with the relevant content often delivered in local languages.
Moreover, in a departure from Beijing’s more traditional censorship and propaganda campaigns, the narratives being promoted are not necessarily focused on advancing positive views and suppressing negative views of China.
But low-tech tactics are also being used as numerous reports have emerged of China-linked actors seeking out Chinese-speaking social media influencers with international followings over the years, offering to purchase their accounts or pay them to post certain information. Other reports indicate that this practice is not limited to Chinese speakers, but also extends to individuals like an English-speaking Canadian YouTuber.
Edited from an article written by Sarah Cook, The Diplomat