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The Chinese Agitprop: Disinformation, Propaganda and Payrolls

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“If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it and you will even believe it yourself”. -Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propagandist

Successful dictatorships had always trapped its subjects in an ‘illusion of truth’. Those nations only showed their citizens what they were supposed to see, thus preventing any social unrest or exposure to an unpleasant reality. The primary abstracts of what is popularly known as Propaganda today can be found in the ancient Indian text of ‘Arthashastra’ and Chinese book ‘The Art of War’. In the first half of the 20th century, the Russian Federation, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had separate departments within their governments for propaganda works. Even though these administrative units fell over time, their models are still emulated with various scientific up-gradations by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Soon after the October revolution in Russia, the new dispensation started sending artists and dramatists to the countryside to romanticise the uprising and to glorify Bolsheviks. These activities were carried out by the Department of Agitation and Propaganda, popularly known as ‘Agitprop’. This propaganda machinery kept the Russians unaware of the massive killings with the state’s patronage, labour camps and death due to famines. After the establishment of PRC, multiple key initiatives were rolled out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which deemed to fail. What came later was ‘Cultural revolution’ starting from 1966 and lasted until 1976. In the due period, a large number of citizens were indoctrinated; dissidents were labelled and executed as counter-revolutionaries and millions died due to famine. After opening up its market and becoming a manufacturing hub, China pulled millions of its citizens out of poverty and could later become the world’s second-largest economy. But over-ambitious China had grand designs for its global posturing and creating a utopia through propaganda for their citizens. 

To begin with, China has multiple internal issues to hide from the global community. Their persecutions of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province and cell rule in occupied Tibet are among the few issues. Forceful abortions in Uighur women, organ harvesting, imposition of Han culture and massive re-education centres in Xinjiang are condemned by the Human Rights organisations. But ‘the great firewall’ prevents the global community from knowing the gravity of human rights abuses in China. Laogai prison camps which are Chinese equivalent to the Soviet Gulag shelters millions of prisoners, kept under inhumane conditions. Any individual not following the CCP’s axioms stands vulnerable to be named and shamed as anti-State.

China’s grip over its media is also notoriously known. Their official newspaper ‘People’s Daily’ gives a distorted world view for its citizens and CCP’s tabloid ‘Global Times’ carries their propaganda and message to the world. Controlling media is hence an important part of China’s ‘Psychological Warfare’ doctrine. Recently, China claimed that only 82,000 people in China got affected by COVID-19 pandemic. Major international health experts refuted this claim and predicted that thousands could have died in China due to the disease. Numbers will never come out to the public domain unless the CCP wants us to know the truth. China even refused to acknowledge that COVID-19 originated from their nation and accused America of bringing the virus strain to China. There were multiple reports of China exporting faulty PPE kits to the Corona affected countries. But this incident was severely downplayed by global media houses. That shows us the power of Chinese propaganda machinery where they have the resources to hide its entire negative aura and project themselves as a responsible emerging superpower.

Another important aspect is China using soft-power to further push its agenda. Confucius Institutes (CI) operated by the Chinese government is one among many strategies adopted by CCP to influence other nations. China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL) has established 550 CIs in foreign universities and 1172 Confucius Classrooms in primary and secondary levels of foreign schools. CIs and CCs have a presence in around 162 countries globally. U.S Secretary of state Mike Pompeo recently called the Confucius Institute as “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign” on American campuses. He also stated that the students of the U.S should have access to Chinese language and culture free from manipulations. China is also using its money power to consolidate its position is western societies using academic and cultural institutions.  American Education Department had recently asked Ivy League Universities to report undisclosed funds that they had received from China. Along with the Chinese Mandarin, lessons on Chinese history and polity are taught in these Confucius centres. Students are easy prey to propaganda and hence CCP has the game plan to brainwash them to create a positive image of China abroad. China had initially planned to open 1000 CIs globally by the end of 2020, calling it the Confucius revolution.

Recently, The Indian Express exposed the Chinese snooping of 10,000 influential Indian including the President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Politicians, Academicians and people from all walks of life. CCP had assigned this task to a company named Zenhua Data Information Technology Co having close links with the government and PLA. There were even accusations of China collecting personal data from the users of PUBG and TikTok which lead to its ban in India along with other popular apps. TikTok contained contents that were unscientific and glorified violence but the parent company censored any references to contentious issues in China like the Tibet, Xinjiang, Communism or even ‘Winnie the Pooh’. China had banned popular global social media portals including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Tumblr. China has developed clones to all these websites which their citizens can use, but the clones are highly monitored. By doing so, CCP restricts Chinese citizens from having any free interaction with the world outside China. But even when these global social media giants are blocked in China, the Chinese government uses them for their propaganda works. Recently, Twitter deleted 1,70,000 accounts linked to China for spreading disinformation. China also uses its Proxies in Pakistan to target their antagonist nations through hybrid warfare (or 5th Generation warfare). So, the Chinese master plan of using its apparatus to create disturbances in other countries while keeping their society intact needs to be identified.

CCP’s fondness for Propaganda can be better understood by looking at China’s international aspirations. In the emerging new world order China find itself at the centre of all economic activities hence materialising the ancient notion of it being the ‘Middle Kingdom’. The Chinese government has a brutal history of crushing all dissidents. It is therefore important for the state to put its citizens in a pseudo-reality and also make the world believe that the internal affairs of China are all normal. CCP has been doing ‘Donation Diplomacy’ (some in the form of gifts) to make nations and social influencers to fall in line to the benefit of China. The U.S had even accused the Chinese government of sending students to their nation for espionage purpose. The Chinese had even launched ‘Operation Fox hunt’ for terminating Dissidents of CCP living abroad.

China’s ‘wolf warrior diplomats’ work overtime to project their nation as the new Messiah for global stability. What they wish to conceal is the repression CCP does back home through enormous propaganda. The major problem with the PRC is that it doesn’t work like a republic. Instead, it functions as a Multi-National Company (MNC) greedy for profit, exploitation of its workers and ruthless extraction of natural resources. In the due process the MNC spends millions of dollars for its image makeover through PR agencies. The rising dominance of China is a threat to global peace, the existence of its neighbouring countries and risks the very notion of reality with manipulations.   

The writer is currently pursuing masters degree in History from the Department of History, University of Hyderabad, India. Publishes articles on topics pertaining to International affairs, History and Indian politics.

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The Chinese diplomatic force in the IAEA to confront Western leadership

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At the level of international relations, through China’s presence in all the relevant international organizations, and its membership in all of the United Nations organizations, specifically in the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, China aims to play the role of the (international balancer),  in light of its quest to maintain a certain level of competition with the United States of America politically and economically, this is in line with its desires to constantly play the role of the pole calling for (multipolarity and multilateral international pluralism through the Chinese political speeches of Chinese President “Xi Jinping”), in order to oppose American hegemony over the world and Washington’s policies to maintain its position as a single pole in the international community. China’s increase in its foreign investments, in order to enhance its economic hegemony over the world through its political and diplomatic tools with countries that have equal economic power with it in a number of (trade, scientific and technological issues, in addition to military and intelligence tools, as a reference for China’s new foreign political center).

  We note that the patterns of Chinese foreign policy is (the pattern of dependence, which is based on the high level of foreign participation in all current global issues), to restrict the attempts of the United States of America to pass its decisions internationally, and therefore China is trying to enter the membership of all international organizations so that China’s foreign policies remain more comprehensive, broader and more effective in the global change, and to change all directions of these issues and control them in the United States, and this is one of its new political tools that serve its global expansion through the (Chinese Belt and Road Initiative).

   In the same context, China focuses its external and competitive strength on its presence in effective international organizations, and rapprochement with the European Union, especially (France, Germany), despite not denying their relations with Washington, because of their strong influence in the global economy.  In addition to China’s reliance on the plan of foreign and foreign investments in countries that influence American influence through the Belt and Road projects, as well as China’s resort to the import policy of many resources necessary to develop its economic capabilities from certain European countries to open influential relations with them, leading to (the Chinese strategy to obtain  political support through the policies of alliances, consulates, representations, and its membership of international organizations), with the aim of influencing countries’ policies economically to pass important international decisions regarding the US challenge to China, such as: (the Iranian nuclear file, North Korea, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, etc.), to increase with this  The level of external penetration of China economically and politically).

    China is mainly aiming to increase its membership in international organizations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to (create a new balance of power and get rid of unipolarity restrictions through the medium powers and small states that the international system prevails with real pluralism, instead of the current state of American unipolarity).

   In my personal opinion, the countries of the Middle East may find in the rise of China and Russia, and perhaps other international powers to re-compete the United States,  as a (real opportunity to advance the effects of the pluralism of the international system at the regional level, and this would create more space for movement and opposition or bargaining and flexibility of movement for all to confront the policies of American hegemony, according to Chinese planning with Russia), and this also works to alleviate those restrictions and American dictates, and perhaps the sanctions and pressures it imposes on opponents of its approach internationally.

  The strategy of competition between China and the United States has become China’s long-term strategy, which is based on (the necessity of a heavy Chinese presence in all international organizations and forums, which allows China to communicate with various global powers and balance its relations with them compared to Washington), as well as diversifying the People’s Republic of China for its relations and distribution of its power among the competing countries, which allows China to show wide options on all important issues, and the most dangerous is that this Chinese presence, which (allows Beijing to prejudice the foundations of its relationship with the United States of America and the other various powers around the world).

  China and Russia also aim to form an alliance into all international and regional organizations to change the current provocative approach of the American policies in their confrontation, especially those related to mobilization policies and American alliances against them around the world. The Chinese alliance with Russia was so clear with the (Russian Foreign Minister “Sergey Lavrov’s visit” to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, while on the other hand, both Kuwait and Qatar have received a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the CPC Central Committee “Yang Jiechi”).

    On the other hand, China is among the Security Council countries that have the largest number of (Chinese peacekeeping forces around the world), and China is at the forefront of the (most contributing countries to the international peacekeeping budget, in addition to sending naval fleets to carry out maritime guard missions according to according to the UN Security Council resolutions), and therefore China may play an important role in establishing security in many countries in the world, and this is perhaps what China plans to ensure its use, in the event of a decline in American interest in the security of many regions in the world, within the framework of (the strategy of pressure of the American expenditures, retreat and withdrawal from many places around the world and devote its concern to the American interior issues and its worsening economic crises).

  The point is worthy to be considered here, is the report issued in July 2021 by the (International Atomic Energy Agency), entitled “Nuclear reactors around the world”, in which he analyzed China’s plan to (establish the dream of nuclear sovereignty around the world by starting to build and establish about 11 reactors). There are other Chinese nuclear reactors under construction, as well as the (new Chinese planning to build other 29 nuclear reactors), while the International Atomic Energy Agency’s work report on the other hand indicated that the known total number of reactors that are actually in service, other than those planned for construction, and other reactors under construction, is up to  About 50 Chinese nuclear reactors, a step that confirms that “China is clearly shifting towards nuclear energy in the production of electricity, and depends on it directly in its industrial renaissance during the coming period, especially as it is the number one country in the world that is expanding in the establishment of nuclear plants, followed by Russia, which plans to build other 20 new nuclear reactors, while it has 38 nuclear reactors in active service”. Some leaks indicate the presence of Chinese nuclear reactors, exercises and tests in the “Doklam Desert” region on the borders of “Xinjiang” province in northwest China.

   It also notes that, from the reality of the report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, its confirmation regarding (Chinese planning to become the first country in the world in the production of nuclear energy during the next ten years, in return for the decline in the share of the United States of America in nuclear reactors, which continues to the continuous decrease with the exit of new American numbers of reactors annually), as the future plan of the United States of America does not include the establishment of new reactors, which indicates that (the expansion of this type of energy tends towards China and Russia during the coming period, and these countries will have accumulated experiences, enabling them to dominate and control this new nuclear industry in various countries of the world, and this is what is actually common happening in the region).  Knowing that its uses will be mainly peaceful and to serve the interests of peoples and countries, so we may witness the coming period intensifying the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in many files around the world to study them, inspect different regions and various other areas to ensure (their peaceful uses of nuclear energy in many development projects around the world).

   Hence, we almost understand (the importance of the Chinese presence and presence and its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency in the first place), given that it actually owns 50 nuclear reactors in service, and its contribution to the production of electricity and providing energy to one and a half billion citizens, and China also has new nuclear reactors under construction, so (China seeks to be near the International Atomic Energy Agency, to embarrass, restrict and limit the American influence on the one hand against Beijing’s allies, led by Iran and then North Korea. Therefore, China has developed a strategic plan in the coming years, which is based on the intensity of the Chinese international presence and passing its foreign policies and decisions with the help of its Russian ally internationally).

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How AUKUS changed China’s diplomatic position towards the IAEA

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Image source: Wikipedia

The American challenge to China in its places of influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region, and its interference in the Taiwan issue, was a decisive factor in increasing China’s influence and presence in all international forums, especially (the official Chinese objection to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Australian nuclear submarine deal and an attempt to mobilize the international community against this deal under the auspices of the United States of America). Hence, China, through its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency, seeks to present its issues fairly internationally, as in the case of (the AUKUS Defense Agreement and the Australian nuclear submarine deal). This was confirmed by Chinese President “Xi Jinping” in his political speeches, that “China opposes American hegemony and its quest to stifle China in its Asian areas of influence”.

  Therefore, all the Chinese political speeches by President “Xi Jinping” came before all international organizations and forums, stressing (establishing a multipolar and multilateral international world with active actors in it to defend the rights of poor and marginalized peoples, and support development initiatives in developing countries), outlining the declared goals for “China’s global strategy in the new century”, which aspires to be one of its main and distinguished poles.

    The American challenge to China by signing the new AUKUS defense agreement and the intensity of American influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region, especially the (South China Sea, Taiwan’s Formosa Strait and the Pacific Ocean regions), that has given Washington the excuse to increase its presence in the Asian region surrounding China, despite the relative success. The Chinese side isolate Taiwan from communicating with the world for a long time, according to the principle of “one unified China”, according to what has been approved upon Taiwan internationally. However, a number of indicators have created a kind of concern at Beijing about the reality of the changing US position towards Taiwan to interfere in its internal affairs, most notably:

 The current US administration, which is led by the President “Joe Biden” called to “grant Taiwan a permanent seat in the United Nations”, after Washington signed the new AUKUS defense and security agreement with Australia and Britain, under the pretext of allowing Taiwan to present its issues with US support, which strongly provoked Beijing.

In addition to the fact that the “New AUKUS Defense Agreement” has provided the opportunity for the United States of America to interfere in (Taiwan’s internal affairs) to restrict China’s influence by inviting Taiwanese officials to visit the United States of America and visiting members of the US Congress to Taiwan, and announcing an increase in the volume of US military sales to Taiwan, and the (constant presence of the American troops, destroyers and warships in the Taiwan Strait to counter Chinese influence), which is inconsistent with all international conventions that (consider Taiwan an integral part of China), the USA has also provoked Beijing by giving an “entry visa” to the Taiwanese officials, and helping out with the “re-election of Taiwan’s opponent president to Beijing with 54% in the face of China”, in addition to Washington easing restrictions on dealing with Taiwanese officials, which continues so far with the current president of Taiwan, “Tsai Ing-wen”, and increasing the volume of American military sales to Taiwan.

The “Aukus Agreement” gave the United States of America the justification for sending American military ships in the Pacific Ocean and Taiwan’s Formosa Strait, under the pretext of protecting the “Indo-Pacific” region and defending the Taiwan Strait in the face of Chinese interference, as well as increasing the sale of American warplanes to  Taiwan, and the indefinite existence of the US forces in the “South China Sea and Taiwan Strait” under the pretext of protecting international maritime traffic, especially after the United States of America signed the “New AUKUS Defense Agreement” with (Australia, UK) and the “Quad Agreement” with (Japan, India, and Australia).

In ​​an earlier period, the US government deliberately changed the name of the organization in which it handles Taiwan affairs to (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representation Office in the United States of America).

   Hence, we understand the intensity of Chinese international calls after the American signing of the Aukus Defense Agreement, to (confront the policy of American alliances and calling for international polarity). Since China and the United States of America are two large countries that belong to the membership of the nuclear club, in addition to the actual influence of each of them internationally, so any action of either China or the United States of America affects the whole world, so “China submitted an objection to the International Atomic Energy Agency against  The United States of America for violating the terms and conditions of its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency by sponsoring the Aukus nuclear agreement”.

    The signing by the United States of the new AUKUS defense agreement in the face of China, which is “allowed the Chinese side to put pressures on the Iranian nuclear file at the International Atomic Energy Agency and to put actual pressure on Washington”, which came from China’s call for the IAEA’s cooperation with the Iranian nuclear issue in a balanced and objective way to avoid the complex American calculations and China’s resolute response to the withdrawal of the United States of America from the “Iran nuclear agreement” in 2018 during the presidency of “Trump”. This is what China strongly opposes before the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, especially to embarrass the USA internationally as well, after the American signing of the AUKUS nuclear defense agreement in its confrontation.

  This is what was supported by statements of Chinese officials, calling for the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA” to play a constructive role in strengthening diplomatic efforts in favor of Iran in confronting the United States of America,  as a part of the proposed Chinese solutions towards this nuclear issue between Iran and the USA, which China have publicly directed diplomatic and international blame for (Washington’s violation of its international agreements and its negative behaviours of all its international conventions, foremost of which is its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran).

  Therefore, the Chinese strategy came after the signing of the AUKUS Defense Agreement led by Washington, by calling on China to the IAEA to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with Iran in the face of American violations in the first place, in order to restore the confidence of the international community regarding (the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program), which is what China is trying to prove  And call him in the face of Washington.  China is also keen to hold and conduct international talks with the European Union and officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency on this Iranian nuclear issue, claiming that “the United States of America has made the world and the Middle East live in a critical stage, due to its violations of all its recognized international covenants”, and the Chinese government’s declaration that dialogue and cooperation with Iran, regarding its nuclear program is the only correct way to resolve this issue in the face of the current provocative American policies.

   The most remaining dangerous and important analysis for me is that China will respond firmly internationally against the United States of America, because of its sponsorship of the Aukus Defense Agreement in its confrontation, especially with the increase in those American and European invitations in the first place, pending the outcome of the new talks with Iran under the auspices and supervision of the officials and supervisors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the final decision to be taken on (consideration of referring Iran’s file to the UN Security Council to take a position or impose sanctions against Iran). Of course, there will be an opportunity here for China and its ally Russia to teach the United States of America and its traditional European allies a harsh lesson by using (veto or objection right) to block any decisions affecting the Iranian nuclear file, which will be the summit of Chinese provocation to Washington internationally after its infringement of its rights by signing the “Aukus Defense Agreement”.

   Here, we find that the role of China will seek at the present time to (extension of the agreement to monitor the Iranian nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency), but in the event of the failure of these talks with Iran due to those American pressures on the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, and in the event of (the success of the American planning to issue a new resolution by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran and referral of the issue to the Security Council), both Russia and China will respond and will definitely refuse to support the issuance of any international or US resolutions against Iran. This represents a real Chinese and Russian challenge to US power after it signed the AUKUS defense agreement with Australia in the “Indo-Pacific” region to curb Chinese influence.

  It remains the most prominent and important here, that (the growing Russian and Chinese support for Iran had a negative impact on the efforts of the United States of America and the European Union to bring Tehran to the negotiating table during the last period due to the Iranian conditions supported by Russia and China), and here we analyze that the current situation which (allows Iran to include more demands and conditions in its list for obtaining more concessions from Washington and its European allies in the nuclear negotiations), and this will therefore be the (harsh and resolute Chinese internationally response to confront US policies, after signing the AUKUS Defense Agreement to restrict and contain China’s influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region).  China will respond forcefully before the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community against US policies, due to (the American support of the nuclear proliferation and competition by adopting the Aukus nuclear deal in favor of Australia).

    Therefore, monitoring the relationship between the United States of America and China and identifying points of conflict and convergence between the two countries, and the impact of these relations on the international system and the policies of the work of international bodies and organizations, in addition to the Chinese rise and its impact on American hegemony and the adoption of the United States of America (containment strategy) to control this Chinese emergence, all of this, enables us later to understand and analyze the nature of the next stage and all its international ties, especially with regard to the Iranian nuclear file, and China’s accusation of the United States of America violating to the international covenants, especially by signing the AUKUS Agreement, which will lead to (international nuclear conflict and competition that undermines international security stability).

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How Beijing’s Disinformation Campaign threatens International Security in the Post-Truth Era

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Ever wonder how disinformation[1] could have shaped the next information warfare in the post-truth era? With the continuous advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and our overwhelming reliance on social media, the potential ramifications provoked by state-sponsored disinformation campaign could be disastrous. Indeed, given its relative low cost, low barriers with easy access to basically anywhere that allow free flow of information, disinformation serves as a perfect strategy in the new era of hybrid warfare.

Indeed, western countries have been noticing an alarming surge in political polarization with a pattern of declining public trust for mainstream media[2], implying the increasing susceptibility of the public to fake news. While this kind of information warfare is likely to dominant future warfare as technological advancement continue to upsurge, the liberal democratic structure of the western societies that enables freedom of speech provides fertile ground for adversaries, especially dictated regime to exploit. This article focused primely on China, its ideology, and reasons to deploy disinformation as part of its grand strategy, as well as the tactics Beijing would likely to use in the upcoming information warfare.

Hybrid Tactics as the Grand Strategy—and Disinformation

First announced by the Central Military Commission (CMC) in 2003, the “Three Warfare”—which included the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations, overt and covert media manipulation, as well as legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defense policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad[3]-— acted as political guidelines and mutually reinforcing strategies for the People’s Liberal Army (PLA). While the Three Warfare primely aims at exploiting the adversary’s weaknesses to disrupt their opposition to PRC’s agendas[4], Chinese hybrid warfare has much more potential destruction with the integration of other hybrid tactics such as clandestine diplomacy and irregular warfare.

As a matter of fact, the nature of liberal society and democratic structure makes it difficult to resist hybrid warfare—western nations’ domestic politics could be readily usurped by Beijing’s use of disinformation and geo-economic influence, since the system are “protected by the very same liberal values that these hybrid means are designed to subvert”[5]. Hybrid warfare thus constitute the best strategy for Beijing to weaken opponents’ counterbalancing potential. Free media, for instance, which represents a basic value of liberal democracy, provided sufficient room for hybrid interference. Whilst freedom of speech allows free flow of information, free press is susceptible to fake news and propaganda conducted by coordinated disinformation campaigns, which conceivably result in a delegitimization of the media’s credibility, as well as an internal division among different target audience[6]. In addition, the echo chamber and filter bubbles effect constituted by the news feed algorithm further reinforce information consumption pattern[7] and thus further generates political polarization and potential social turmoil such as the United States capital attack on Jan 6th, 2021. The nature of fake news, indeed, has constituted its easy deployment with great effectiveness.

The Ultimate Nightmare—Deep Fakes for Disinformation campaign 

Constructed by machine learning techniques, deep fakes—images, videos and sound records that mimics one’s speech or action, of which that person had never did or said in reality—are backed by a specific type of deep learning method named as the Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN), where two self-supervised algorithms automatically “learn” from each other. In such method, one algorithm (the generator) produces a synthetic image of a person whereas the other algorithm (the discriminator) reviews the level of authenticity of that image and provides feedback to the former. Generator takes “advises” from discriminator and thus being able to improve every time it creates new image. After thousands and thousands of training cycles, GAN’s algorithms would be either skillful in producing synthetic images or differentiate images’ authenticity. Due to the constant evolvement of AI and its technological sophistication, deep fakes are hence extremely hyper-realistic and difficult to be detected by human eyes[8][9]. Therefore, when deployed as a form of disinformation, deep fakes could bring disastrous implications from democracies to international security.

In relations to Beijing’s strategy, the use of deep fakes could be deployed from the fabrication of public figures and ordinary citizens.

First, deep fakes that aim at politicians, celebrities, and key opinion leaders (KOL) will have an agenda of defamation and/or shaping public opinion. Take the presidential election in 2020 as an example. Both Trump and Biden were being accused of having sexual misconduct during their election campaign. What if, there is a deep fake video portraying such criminal behaviors released the night before election? How would this have reshaped public opinion on their suitability of candidacy? Given the difficulty to debunk fake news in real time, one could only speculate the extent of damage caused to his/her reputation and the country’s democratic system.

Internationally speaking, deep fakes does not only have the potential to damage diplomatic relations but also generating intra and inter-state warfare. What if, a deep fake video illustrating U.S. president stating that America’s nuclear umbrella will no longer shelter her allies? Or Washington is planning on withdrawal of NATO, that collective defense is just a political discourse? How devastated will it be to the alliance relations and U.S. government’s credibility? Such reputation loss is often irreversible, regardless of the authenticity of the news being verified afterwards or not. 

In addition, AI-generated people could be used as “witnesses” to create the illusion of “truth” for disinformation. In fact, certain private companies are already offering disinformation as services, including automated and human-curated accounts, as well as trolling and other AI services[10]. These campaigns are often deployed for a certain political actor, according to an Oxford study in 2020[11].

Moreover, other forms of AI system including Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT)[12] which can generate text that synthesize human writings, could bring fake news and information warfare to the next level, especially when it comes to complexed international politics[13]. Together with the use of hyper-realistic deep fakes, fake accounts, personal statements, and opinion pieces would appear to be authentic—further blurring the line between truth and post-truth, meanwhile, undermining confidence in traditional media and state’s authority.

Perceptibly, the integrated use of private companies’ and state-sponsored disinformation—for instance, the 50-cent army, a notorious internet trolls employed by the CCP, which is responsible for about 450 million fake posts and comments every year[14] masquerading themselves as ordinary citizens in attempt to sway public opinion in favor of Beijing[15]—would be heavily deployed as part of the disinformation campaign/ strategy in the next information warfare.

Tailored-made disinformation

The second characteristics of China’s present (and future) disinformation would be tailored-made to certain target groups, especially its diaspora Chinese community. Overseas Chinese’ tendency to “stick to themselves and form distinct diaspora communities within their settling countries”[16] had paved way for Beijing to exert its surveillance, control, and manipulation on its people, regardless of their physical geographical location. And the spread of disinformation could be effortlessly accomplished through these significant features.

For instance, The Foreign Influence Registry Act (Bill C-282) introduced by Canada’s former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu was being deviously altered as fake news that are deliberately personalized for the Chinese audience. By portraying the Chinese community as the targeted groups and “victims” of the bill, these disinformation campaigns attempt to generate a perception that the introduction of the bill is correspond to racial discrimination against the community; thereby drawing an equal sign (albeit casual assumption) between the foreign influence registry act and the suppression of pro-China opinion, as well as control and surveillance on organizations and individuals[17] in the overseas Chinese community. Such rhetoric is indeed a discourse of danger and insecurity regardless of its truthfulness (the Chinese race being discriminated, free speech, business, and cultural exchange opportunity on the line)—it helps construct the “Chinese identity” by composing binary opposition of “us versus them”—thus provoking a certain degree of pro-Chinese sentiment and nationalism, especially for those who have always been in a more pro-Beijing stance. 

Moreover, dissemination of fake news through via the use of social media like WeChat, WhatsApp[18], increases the sense of familiarity which consequently surge one’s susceptibility to disinformation[19]. Such propagation would be difficult to debunk given the fact that it is spread through community channels and end-to-end encryption communication apps.

Perceivably, China will be utilizing disinformation campaign by tailoring to certain target groups. Chinese diaspora community would inevitably be one of them as Beijing seeks to mobilize them in operation of actions that is in favor of the central authorities. The other likeliness would be agitators and organizations that have the potential to provoke political unrest. The latter is particularly alarming—especially if (when) deep fakes are tailored to spark radical actions of certain target group, which includes but not limited to far-right groups and extremists—the consequences could be riots and social turmoil, and if not impossible, a civil war.

If you want peace, prepare for war[20]

The nature of disinformation makes it easy to be deployed with great effectiveness but at a relatively low cost. Whilst social media algorithm facilitates echo chambers and filter bubbles which conveniently trap users in reinforced information consumption patterns, the psychology of disinformation often puts people in vulnerable position as mere repeated exposure would be able to surge one’s susceptibility to fake news.

Nevertheless, the world has been witnessing more frequent and intensified disinformation campaign. State-sponsored yet covert disinformation campaign could even take advantages of its clandestine nature to deny responsibility while causing chaos in the other side of the planet by generating political polarization and thus social tear.

Certainly, merely a riot or even a  civil war would not bring the U.S. down. But the time bought via such disinformation campaign and social turmoil could be. What if, such chaos is generated in times of China’s pre-emptive strike to the island? The use of fake news is only a part of Beijing’s hybrid warfare, of which included much more complexed strategies such as the integration of a satellite assault to blackout BMD system in space warfare, and other use of unorthodox methods like Chinese Maritime Militia[21] (“little blue man”) in East and South China Sea.

These situations, although hypothetical, are not impossible. Yet these potential dangers have already been undermining public’s confidence in traditional media and state’s authority, let alone when being seriously tailored and deployed in wartime. As Taiwan’s president Tsai has noted, “Taiwan does not seek military confrontation……But if its democracy and way of life are threatened, Taiwan will do what never it takes to defend itself.”[22] Akin to Taipei’s situation, like-minded democracies that hope for peace and stability must align and prepare for this information warfare as it is fundamentally threatening our liberal democratic society, as well as international security.

After all, from a realist perspective—if you want peace, prepare for war.


[1] Disinformation, as a form of fake news, is regarded as “false, incomplete, or misleading information that is passed, fed, or confirmed to a target individual, group, or country”. For details, see Shultz, R. H. and Godson, R. (2018). Dezinformatsiya: Active Measures in Soviet Strategy, Washington, D.C.: Pergamon-Brassey, 1984, p.41. and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2018, p.7; Theohary, 2018, p.5.

[2] Greifeneder, R., Jaffé, M., Newman, E. and Schwarz, N., 2021. The Psychology of Fake News. New York: Routledge.

[3] Raska, M. (2015). ‘China and the “Three Warfares”’. The Diplomat. Available at https://thediplomat.com/2015/12/hybrid-warfare-with-chinese-characteristics-2/

[4] Miracola, S. (2018). ‘Chinese Hybrid Warfare’, Italian Institute for International Political Studies.  [online] Available at: https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/chinese-hybrid-warfare-21853 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

[5] Wigell, M. (2019). Hybrid interference as a wedge strategy: a theory of external interference in liberal democracy. International Affairs, 95(2), pp.255-275.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Greifeneder, R., Jaffé, M., Newman, E. and Schwarz, N., 2021. The Psychology of Fake News. New York: Routledge.

[8] Chesney, R. and Citron, D. (2019). ‘Deep Fakes: A Looming Challenge for Privacy, Democracy, and National Security’. California Law Review, Vol. 107, pp.1753-1819.

[9] Rossler, A. et al. (2019) “2019 Ieee/cvf International Conference on Computer Vision (iccv),” in Faceforensics : Learning to Detect Manipulated Facial Images. IEEE, pp. 1–11. doi: 10.1109/ICCV.2019.00009.

[10] Hsu, K., Sangvikar, D. Zhang, Z. and Navarrete, C. (2020). ‘Lucifer: New Cryptojacking and DDos Hybrid malware Exploiting high and critical vulnerabilities to infect windows devices.’ Palo Alto Networks: Unit 42. 24 June 2020.

[11] Wallace, A. (2020). “Major Data Breaches in 2019.” Toronto Sun. Available at https://torontosun.com/news/world/major-data-breaches-in-2019

[12] GPT is an artificial intelligence system built by OpenAI, an AI research organization based in California.

[13] Kreps, S. and McCain, M. (2019). ‘Not Your Father’s Bots—AI Is Making Fake News Look Real’. Foreign Affairs.

[14] The number is going up every year according to study.

[15] Farrell, H. (2016). ‘The Chinese Government fakes nearly 450 million social media comments a year. This is why.’ Washington Post. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/19/the-chinese-government-fakes-nearly-450-million-social-media-comments-a-year-this-is-why/

[16] Forsby, A. (2011). ‘The Non-Western Challenger? The Rise of Sino-Centric China’. Danish Institute For International Studies Report.

[17] Today Commercial News. (2021). ‘Please spread the message: Conservative MP Kenny Chiu proposed <The Foreign Influence Registry Act> to suppress the Chinese community’. Available at https://todaycommercialnews.com/canada/49207# (〈請廣傳! 保守黨國會議員趙錦榮提「外國勢力註冊」法案打壓華人社區〉,加拿大商報,2021年09月09日)

[18] Bramham, D. (2021). ‘Daphne Bramham: Conservatives face ugly barrage over party’s China policy’. Vancouver Sun. Available at https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/daphne-bramham-conservatives-face-ugly-barrage-over-partys-china-policy

[19] Greifeneder, R., Jaffé, M., Newman, E. and Schwarz, N., 2021. The Psychology of Fake News. New York: Routledge.

[20] Old Latin saying “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (If you want peace, prepare for war)

[21] Informal navy constituted by the Chinese “citizens”.

[22] Tsai, I. W. (2021).’ Taiwan and the Fight for Democracy—A force for Good in the Changing International Order’. Foreign Affairs. Available at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/taiwan/2021-10-05/taiwan-and-fight-democracy

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