Freedom House in its “Beijing’s Global Media Influence” report released on Sept. 8 found that the Chinese regime and its proxies were using “more sophisticated, covert, and coercive tactics” to propagate pro-Beijing narratives, spread disinformation, and stamp out unfavorable news.
“These efforts seek to silence criticism of the regime and convert independent media into shills for the Chinese Communist Party.”
Paying for InfluenceIn the United States and elsewhere, Chinese state media has paid reputable outlets to publish content portraying the regime in a positive light, the report detailed.
Online and print paid inserts from state-run media outlets China Daily or Xinhua News Agency have appeared in Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, CNN, and Foreign Policy.
Social Media CampaignsThe Chinese regime has also continued to leverage social media to amplify pro-CCP talking points.
The public relations push came amid growing international backlash ahead of the Games over Beijing’s repression in the Xinjiang region, which several governments and parliaments have labeled as genocide.
“Many such efforts were linked to the Chinese government’s push to undermine the credibility of documentation showing mass detentions and atrocities against Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang,” the report stated.
Since 2019, the CCP has drastically ramped up its disinformation campaigns on social media platforms around the world, using networks of fake accounts to spread false narratives, Freedom House found.
Over the years, thousands of fake accounts have been detected on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and taken down for manipulating discussion on an array of topics involving China, according to the report. These include pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and U.S. relations with Taiwan.
The report noted that Chinese-linked disinformation networks also waded into debates on U.S. domestic issues, stoking confusion on hot-button topics including the government’s pandemic response, racial tensions, and political divisions during the 2020 presidential election.
The regime’s attempts to influence media channels in democratic countries have come under rising scrutiny.
“We have a total imbalance, because these leaders in Beijing are using the free and open media that we ensure and are protected in democratic systems to spread propaganda, to spread misinformation,” Blinken said.
“Ultimately, that’s an unsustainable proposition.”