China is increasingly adopting tactics associated with Russia to generate propaganda and disinformation in order to expand its geopolitical and global strategy, AP reported. Beijing-linked actors are disseminating large numbers of denigrating social media posts and generating fake news with the help of artificial intelligence as part of a broader embrace of covert operations.
According to the news agency, the United States is concerned about the countries that make up Southern Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where China has huge political and economic interests. Chinese state media, affiliated channels, and social media influencers routinely spread ideas that the U.S. labels as exaggerated, false, or misleading.
“The building of modern China is based on a dictatorial and tyrannical project, so Beijing’s efforts are to misinform and hide information,” Napoleón Campos, a Salvadoran foreign relations expert, told Diálogo on April 15. “Apart from copying some styles of propaganda and disinformation, China is investing in its own strategy, perfecting itself in the digital era of social networks and the internet.”
China has been learning Russian disinformation tactics expeditiously. Both countries combine disinformation campaigns with propaganda in the so-called “mask diplomacy,” the Spanish think tank Real Instituto Elcano indicated in a report.
Beijing was seen as less willing than Russia to take provocative measures, and more concerned about the possibility of being publicly blamed. It now carries out operations it would not have before, fearing it is losing the narrative battle in many countries, AP reported.
Attempts to disguise spam (junk mail) as legitimate messages, called spamouflage, is one such example. This is a pro-China political operation that, since late 2022, has been using fake journalists, created by artificial intelligence, to promote China’s global role and spread disinformation in videos, Graphika, a U.S. firm that analyzes information flow, found.
Faced with the erosion of the image of the communist regime, due to its management of the epidemic-turned-pandemic, China adopted more aggressive Russian tactics that do not consist of controlling information, but of accusing the U.S. and sowing confusion, the Elcano Royal Institute posited.
Threat analysts at Google said they disrupted more than 50,000 instances of posts and other activities in 2022 linked to a pro-Beijing influence operation known as Dragonbridge, AP reported.
“The broadcasts from these arms that radiate to social networks in several languages not only target Chinese communities abroad, but also disseminate content in Spanish,” Campos said.
James Rubin, coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, a U.S. State Department body created to “expose and counter” foreign propaganda and disinformation, told British daily The Guardian on February 28 that Chinese and Russian disinformation “is pernicious.”
China and Russia spend billions of dollars in an effort to manipulate information, but Beijing operates globally and spends more than Moscow, he said. “In the communications space, the alignment between China and Russia is near complete.”
Chinese propaganda shows growing cooperation between Beijing and Moscow. China uses Russia’s war against Ukraine to convey anti-U.S. messages and promote a vision of an aggressive West, the Polish government said in a February 17 statement.
In a study called A Year of Disinformation: Russia and China’s Influence Campaigns During the War in Ukraine, the U.S.-based Alliance for Securing Democracy of the German Marshall Fund found that China publishes a pro-Kremlin narrative while maintaining its official stance as neutral in the conflict.
“Let’s not forget that in the last few years leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have the great COVID-19 episode,” Campos said. “At this point the Chinese Communist Party remains ironclad, and we still don’t know how the virus originated and how it started to spread from China. China and Russia are a danger for the present and the future.”
For Campos, the way to counter these Chinese actions in Latin America is to allow democracy to prevail and apply international human rights clauses in foreign relations that are not guaranteed in China.
“The more democracy, the more democratic partners Latin America and the Caribbean will have in the world. It is clear that Russia isn’t; on the contrary, there is already an international arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and China is not a democratic partner for the region either,” Campos concluded.