China’s communist regime is using social media to weaponize racial enmity in the United States, according to a former intelligence officer.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively working to erode trust in the U.S. political system and to increase political polarization among Americans by inflaming racial tensions on social media, according to Nicholas Eftimiades, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
“Race baiting is a tactic that we’ve seen starting to evolve from China in the United States. This goes back to the riots in 2020.”
Race-baiting refers to the encouragement or coaxing of racism or anger about racial issues for political gain.
Eftimiades, who previously worked in the Central Intelligence Agency, State Department, Diplomatic Security Service, and Defense Intelligence Agency, said that the CCP maintained several organizations that carried out overseas information operations and could promote such campaigns.
Among these, he said, were the CCP’s propagandistic United Front work department, the intelligence-focused Ministry of State Security, and the People's Liberation Army, all of which have conducted covert influence operations in foreign countries.
Often, Eftimiades said, CCP social media campaigns were short-lived because they were found out by security professionals employed by the social media companies.
Some, however, could fester and grow within insular echo chambers online, where readers often only see content designed for them based on proprietary algorithms.
“You can question how effective some of these are because they don’t have time to build up a massive following before they’re taken down,” Eftimiades said.
CCP Now Targeting Americans DomesticallyEftimiades’s comments follow an announcement by Meta Platforms that it had dismantled a China-based misinformation campaign ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The purpose of the campaign appeared to be to inflame tensions and increase polarization among Americans on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Eftimiades said that this phenomenon presented an evolution in CCP information tactics, as the regime previously focused on swaying opinions about Americans abroad rather than interfering with its people internally.
“I’d say it’s the first time we’ve seen a lot of attacks in the U.S.,” Eftimiades said. “It’s a concept of divide and conquer internally.”
“In the United States we have our issues with racism and they’re exploiting those differences as of late,” Eftimiades said.
The comments echo similar remarks made by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who now hosts a program for the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.
“America is the only country in the world founded on the idea that all humans are treated and created equally.”
Pompeo’s remarks in turn followed a propaganda push by the Chinese state-run media CCTV, which claimed that racism was “an unhealable wound” in the United States.
To that end, Pompeo said that Chinese communist authorities were shielding themselves from criticism at home while exploiting U.S. freedoms to undermine America’s place in the world.
“Twitter is not allowed in China, but CCP propagandists use it [in America],” Pompeo said.
“The undeniable truth, the one that the CCP doesn’t want you to know, is that the most anti-Chinese force in history is the CCP.”
“I look forward to the day when the Chinese people will be able to participate in those same kinds of debates and fights for freedom that Americans have had since 1776,” Pompeo said.