A report in the New York Times today expanded on the scope of the massive disinformation campaign China has created over the COVID-19 pandemic it caused. The report partly reveals the massive nature of the coronavirus campaign by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to take the offensive against the US government. A global propaganda war is underway, with China reportedly adopting many of the tactics employed by Russian disinformation agents over the past several years.
The NYT report begins:
WASHINGTON — The alarming messages came fast and furious in mid-March, popping up on the cellphone screens and social media feeds of millions of Americans grappling with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.
“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”
The messages became so widespread over 48 hours that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitterthat they were “FAKE.”They then report, “[t]he amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several of the officials said they had not seen before.” Several intelligence agencies have since increased their surveillance to analyze new platforms used by China to spread conspiracy theories and divisive rhetoric.
Officials interviewed for the report told the Times that the operatives did not create their own messages, as much as they amplified existing messages. While they utilized social media apps to make messages go viral, they also used encrypted options:
The officials say the Chinese agents also appear to be using texts and encrypted messaging apps as part of their campaigns. It is much harder for researchers and law enforcement officers to track disinformation spread through text messages and encrypted apps than on social media platforms.
Importantly, this campaign appears to go to upper levels of the CCP:
American intelligence officers are also examining whether spies in China’s diplomatic missions in the United States helped spread the fake lockdown messages, a senior American official said. American agencies have recently increased their scrutiny of Chinese diplomats and employees of state-run media organizations. In September, the State Department secretly expelled two employees of the Chinese Embassy in Washington suspected of spying.
Of course, the Times being what it is, they couldn’t help but to present information helpful to the enemy interspersed throughout the article. It takes quite a bit of discipline to filter this information out when reading these types of reports. With cooperation from Media Matters for America, they offered up several bits of analysis sympathetic to the ChiComs in their fight to contain the damage from the Wuhan virus:
Other rival powers might have been involved in the dissemination, too. And Americans with prominent online or news media platforms unknowingly helped amplify the messages. Misinformation has proliferated during the pandemic — in recent weeks, some pro-Trump news outlets have promoted anti-American conspiracy theories, including one that suggests the virus was created in a laboratory in the United States.
American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.
“It is part of the playbook of spreading division,” said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, adding that private individuals have identified some social media bots that helped promote the recent lockdown protests that some fringe conservative groups have nurtured.
Certainly the Russian and Chinese infiltrations into American media and social media have social upheaval and division as their goal. Then again, tying pro-liberty and pro-economy protests to the CCP strains credulity, even for the New York Times. Russia got Trump elected, and now they’re making Americans protest the overreach of tin pot governors exploiting a crisis? Never change, NYT.
Before re-engaging in Trump-bashing, the report briefly returns to facts of the Chinese disinformation campaign:
The propaganda efforts go beyond text messages and social media posts directed at Americans. In China, top officials have issued directives to agencies to engage in a global disinformation campaign around the virus, the American officials said.
Some American intelligence officers are especially concerned about disinformation aimed at Europeans that pro-China actors appear to have helped spread. The messages stress the idea of disunity among European nations during the crisis and praise China’s “donation diplomacy,” American officials said. Left unmentioned are reports of Chinese companies delivering shoddy equipment and European leaders expressing skepticism over China’s handling of its outbreak.
The entire report is worth a read, but note well that the NYT takes great pains to paint China / CCP and America as equal superpowers engaged in a propaganda war. The clear conclusion they wish to elicit from the reader is that the nations are on equal moral footing and are fighting over global dominance, while de-emphasizing the moral deficits of the communists who unleashed the virus on the world.
The CCP has fully engaged in an all-out effort to destabilize the United States, utilizing operatives and sympathetic media and political targets embedded in American society. The more aware we become of their efforts to undermine our nation, the more urgent it becomes to defend ourselves. We should recognize the new Cold War underway against a communist threat, similar to the threat of the USSR that we defeated a generation ago.