Beijing’s New Propaganda War: French Military Report Tells All

Front organizations, Chinese rappers, and a fake hotel support the CCP's propaganda war
October 7, 2021 Updated: October 11, 2021

News Analysis

A new study of China’s global influence operations, produced by the French military, is taking France by storm.

Le Monde, Le Parisien, Le Figaro, L’Express, Libération, the country’s Senate, and others have all covered the 646-page report, most positively and many breathlessly.

Breathless is the right reaction to newly discovering the depths of China’s influence operations, which the new report achieves in spades.

The authors of the report, published Sept. 20 and titled “Chinese Influence Operations: A Machiavellian Moment,” are Paul Charon and Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer at the Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM). The IRSEM is associated with the French Ministry of Defense.

The report makes three new contributions to the field of Chinese influence operations: the activities of the Chinese military’s secret propaganda department, called Base 311; the means through which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) targets French universities, think tanks, and political parties for influence; and the key role of the Chinese Communist Youth League (CYL) in the CCP’s attempts at expanding influence among the world’s youth.

According to the study, the CCP’s “one-off partners,” which are targets of its influence, include “think tanks, foundations and research centers.” Some of these “useful idiot” groups may actually take the initiative to offer their services, usually for a fee. “These partnerships are very useful to the Party because they allow it, instead of through what would require extreme efforts, to extend its contact surface and its acceptability on foreign soil. When a reputable think tank organizes an event with China, it is the ability of this organization to convey the Party rhetoric that is sought after by Beijing.”

The CCP holds party-to-party forums in China and Brussels, for example, and reaches out to as broad a spectrum of political parties as possible. “This is why several delegates from the same country, but from different political parties, can be targeted,” according to the authors. The CCP “for example, invited Francis Wurzt, former president of the Party of the European Left/Nordic Green Left (PEL/NGL) and member of the French Communist Party, but also Thierry Mariani, former vice-president of the UMP [Union for a Popular Movement].”

The Union for a Popular Movement, called the Republicans since 2015, is a center-right political party in France founded by former President Jacques Chirac and led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who on Sept. 2 was convicted for illegal funding of his unsuccessful 2012 election campaign.

According to the authors, the plethora of political parties that the CCP compromises is attractive to it because of their “compatibility with Chinese discourse and their ability to be heard by a large segment of the population.”

The authors deeply researched the CYL, which influences youth globally through, for example, Chinese rap bands and Chinese student associations. The rap bands hijack American and European cultural looks and musical forms that appeal to Chinese youth, according to the authors, as a means to harshly criticize the American government.

Epoch Times Photo
Youths walk past a propaganda billboard about the “China Dream,” a slogan associated with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, outside a school in Beijing on March 12, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

State-sponsored Chinese rap lyrics include, for example, warnings against color revolutions of the type found in democratizing countries. The “CYL is responsible for uploading a video on Aug. 1, 2016, accusing the United States of fomenting a color revolution in China like those of Georgia, Ukraine and the Arab Spring,” according to the authors. “The video, posted on the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s Weibo site, was viewed more than 10 million times in just 24 hours.”

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate is China’s highest body responsible for legal prosecutions.

It’s the Chinese military that coordinates much of Beijing’s global influence operations and its lawfare against proponents of democracy and human rights in China. The authors devote much of their original research to a secret Chinese military organization called Base 311, which engages in propaganda and lawfare globally, including through front organizations.

Base 311 is China’s main information warfare operation, “which has its headquarters in the city of Fuzhou, and which is dedicated to the application of the ‘Three Warfares’ strategy,” according to the authors.

The Three Warfares strategy includes public opinion warfare through the media, psychological warfare to influence foreign elites, and legal warfare to condition the global legal environment that the CCP seeks to dominate.

Base 311 “also manages media companies that serve as civilian front organizations, and operates a bogus hotel which is actually a training center,” according to the authors. Base 311 is hidden behind a public swimming pool in Fuzhou, and there’s no way to reserve a room at its fake hotel.

Defeating Beijing’s global influence operations, which seek to extend its totalitarian model through underhanded tactics, is critical to defending the ideals of democracy and human rights. Look for your nearest Chinese consulate and what they are doing close to you. It may at first seem harmless, but not when examined more closely.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).