Countering Chinese Communist Party Propaganda

Cultural icons are becoming a not-so-secret weapon in the propaganda wars
December 7, 2021 Updated: December 15, 2021


The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda campaign is well-funded and highly coordinated. It’s time for some coordinated pushback from unexpected quarters.

An increasing number of Americans and others are becoming aware of the highly-coordinated propaganda campaign being waged by the CCP against America and the world.

The campaign is multi-pronged, including pronouncements by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, repetition by Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats in the world’s capitals, and relentless repetition by Chinese state-run media. An element of the latter’s modus operandi is to frequently quote obscure Westerners—including academicians, journalists, members of left-wing think tanks, former pro-China government officials, politicians, and even people on Beijing’s payroll—to ostensibly give credence to, and reinforce, the false narratives being conveyed by the CCP-controlled media.

Examples of ongoing CCP propaganda campaigns include the following:

• China was not the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
• China’s strict lockdown procedures defeated the virus—a model for the world.
• Chinese leadership is benevolent—a “shared future” on CCP terms.
• The United States is a failing country (in all respects).
• Taiwan is part of China.
• China–U.S. moral equivalence.
• China is the future; the United States is the past.

The Chinese propaganda machine is a well-funded monolith that is relentless in propagating these narratives, and it simply doesn’t deviate from its messages, apparently believing in the adage attributed to Josef Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

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The front page of a Chinese newspaper in Beijing on June 21, 2019. (Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images)

How to counter the CCP’s lies and overwhelm the Chinese propaganda with the truth?

That’s a difficult proposition for the democratic nations of the world, whose very essence is toleration of dissenting opinions (and bald-faced lies) and a plethora of voices across the political spectrum. A coordinated response among governments, let alone by the chattering and political classes, is virtually impossible, especially when some of them are pro-CCP to begin with.

It is doubly difficult when the United States—the “leader of the free world,” as the old Cold War euphemism goes—is led by an administration in which some members have alleged ties to China (as noted here, here, here, here, here, and here).

It may seem to be an insurmountable task, but there is a way to cut through the thick CCP fog—and that is to exploit cultural icons to convey the real truth. It is no secret that Western culture is dominated by the left: Hollywood, academia, the music industry, sports figures, and the legacy media. These people dominate social and regular media discussions and have millions of followers, particularly among the younger generations, and thereby exert a large influence on cultural topics.

That said, there is an increasing number of erstwhile left-of-center cultural icons who are breaking with the synergistic CCP and leftist narratives to speak out in matters of personal conscience (and about the obvious).

Like all communists and garden variety leftists, the Chinese communists are highly susceptible to truth in the form of humor, parody, satire, irony, sarcasm, and the simple exposure of blatant hypocrisy. A few celebrities and sports figures are showing how it is done in recent weeks. The following are some examples.

Joe Rogan

The CCP message to the world about controlling and containing the spread of COVID-19 is lockdowns and vaccines. Nary a word about the effectiveness of early treatment with a variety of available and inexpensive antiviral therapeutics drugs. The Western media and political elites have been echoing that narrative for 20 months.

Enter Joe Rogan, long-time actor, comedian, color commentator for Pay-Per-View’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and podcaster with millions of fans and followers on Instagram and other social media. Rogan has not gotten COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters, despite contracting the disease back in August.

He announced on his first podcast after his recovery in September the unthinkable: “We immediately threw the kitchen sink at it: all kinds of meds. Monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, Z-pack, prednisone—everything.”

And he didn’t stop there, as he has been taking on the U.S. legacy media that condemned him for taking “a horse dewormer” and destroying theirs and the CCP’s narratives.

Fox News reported that “Rogan grilled CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta over his network’s coverage of ivermectin during a tense exchange on ‘The Joe Rogan Experience,’ forcing Gupta to admit his colleagues shouldn’t have said what they said.”

With Rogan breaking the dam on ivermectin, perhaps many of his followers have subsequently learned the media’s “horse paste” claim is pure nonsense, given that over 3.7 billion human doses of ivermectin have been administered around the world since 1987, with only a handful of adverse effects.

Rogan is one more example of the effectiveness of early treatment of COVID-infected people.

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers football team, a former league Most Valuable Player (MVP), a Super Bowl MVP, and arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League (NFL). He is a marquee player for the NFL, which regularly advertises his fame to attract more fans.

That would be the same NFL that has strict vaccine rules for all teams, which is entirely consistent with Beijing’s COVID-19 narrative.

Turns out Rodgers not only didn’t get vaccinated, but he also chose to treat a mild COVID-19 infection with therapeutic drugs, including ivermectin, and even discussed doing that with Joe Rogan, to the horror of woke sports commentators like Mike Florio.

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Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom wears basketball shoes bearing his political message during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Boston, on Dec. 1, 2021. (Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

Enes Kanter Freedom

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been kowtowing to the CCP for three decades in order to promote the NBA in China (and make a ton of money in the process, of course, via a multibillion-dollar partnership that involves media rights, streaming, merchandise sales, and others).

The CCP doesn’t like criticism and received a public apology from Houston Rockets star James Harden in 2019 after the Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters in 2019.

Fast forward to October 2021 where Enes Kanter, star center for the Boston Celtics, has criticized China for improper treatment of Chinese minorities, particularly in East Turkestan (Xinjing). He has also criticized shoemaker Nike for its ongoing “silence on injustice in China,” and has worn customized shoes with the words “Modern Day Slavery” and “No More Excuses” written on them, in a continuing protest.

Kanter is from Turkey and became a U.S. citizen on Nov. 29 while changing his last name to “Freedom.” Can he be cloned a few thousand times?

Celebrities Against Cancel Culture

The CCP publicly promotes “diversity.” Diversity is an intrinsic characteristic of the world, said East China News Service—while privately funding and supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the United States in order to undermine American society, and the country, in general.

The three leftist activists who founded BLM—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—“all work for front groups of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization … [which] is a hereditary descendant of the New Communist Movement inspired by Chinese dictator Mao Zedong,” according to think tank Capital Research Center. Not a coincidence, as they are also connected to the Chinese Progressive Association, which is a group that has deep ties to Beijing.

Some celebrities are speaking out against “diversity” and the associated cancel culture being promoted by BLM. One of those is Brian May, the lead guitarist for the rock band Queen, who has declared that Queen “would not have been able to be born in the form the world has known it in today’s world, due to the influence of ‘woke’ culture,” according to the Post Millennial.

Other celebrities speaking out against the cancel culture include Alec Baldwin, Johnny Depp, JK Rowling, Gina Carano, Rose McGowan, and Matthew McConaughey.

Perhaps these celebrities and others are influencing public opinion polls, which show a significant decline in support for BLM and the cancel culture over the past year, as noted by the New York Post.

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Peng Shuai of China poses with her trophy after winning the singles final match against Alison Riske of the US at the Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on Oct. 16, 2016. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Peng Shuai

Lastly, leveraging Chinese cultural icons works wonders in silencing CCP propaganda, too. Last month, Chinese tennis champion Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, of sexual assault. Since then, the CCP has scrubbed all mention of Peng and censored any discussion of her accusations.

Peng has become a lightning rod for outrage directed against the Chinese regime around the world, with pressure being exerted on China by the Women’s Tennis Association and others, and the WTA announcing last week the suspension of all tournaments in mainland China and Hong Kong due to concerns over Beijing’s treatment of the tennis star.

Through Peng, Chinese censorship, persecution, and the lack of personal freedom in China is being exposed to the world.


Countering the CCP’s gargantuan propaganda enterprise is difficult but possible, and Western cultural icons are increasingly becoming leaders in breaking through the communist lies. Counter-propaganda is an element of deterrence, as confronting Chinese lies results in educating people on the truth and empowering Western leaders to take diplomatic and concrete actions to deter Chinese aggression.

Western celebrities have millions of fans and followers who amplify the criticism of Chinese actions, as well as help destroy CCP propaganda narratives. Much more of that is needed!

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

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.