Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced legislation on Feb. 24 that would counter propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The bill, named the Countering Chinese Propaganda Act (pdf), would create a new sanctions authority against state-backed disinformation networks. It’s aimed at the CCP’s propaganda system, or United Front Work Department (UFWD), an overseas influence arm of the Chinese regime that serves to further the CCP’s interests abroad.
The UFWD has previously been described by Chinese regime leader Xi Jinping as a “magic weapon” that will help bring about “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
The legislation is based on recommendations from the RSC’s National Security Strategy and would require the secretary of state to examine whether the UFWD meets the criteria to be sanctioned under this new authority.
It is part of a larger effort from the RSC—the largest conservative caucus on Capitol Hill—to confront the threat posed by the CCP and to hold President Joe Biden’s administration accountable for weak policies on China, Banks told The Epoch Times last week.
In a statement, Cotton said that the UFWD is used by the Chinese regime to spread propaganda and that the bill would “put an end to their tactics.”
“The Chinese Communist Party expands its disinformation campaign each day—concealing information regarding the origin of COVID-19, lying about its oppression of Uyghurs and other religious minorities, and infiltrating American universities and businesses,” Cotton said.
The bill states, “The United Front Work Department is involved in espionage campaigns, political warfare efforts, malign disinformation, utilizing the Chinese diaspora abroad, and infiltration of educational institutions, all with the goal of softening opposition to the Chinese Communist Party and its policies throughout the world.”
The text of the bill cites an investigation by ProPublica released on March 16 last year, that found that the UFWD was connected to a network of “fake and hijacked” Twitter accounts that were covertly spreading CCP propaganda about COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, to global audiences.
The UFWD, Cotton said, is “just another venue for the CCP to spread its propaganda and to co-opt foreign groups to toe the CCP line.”
Banks said the UFWD directly participates in the Uyghur genocide and the oppression of Christians in China, “but its ultimate goal is to spread those persecutory tactics around the globe.”
“The leadership in Washington may have changed, but China’s political warfare hasn’t,” he said.
“It’s fallen to Congress to expose and counter Communist Party disinformation. We can’t back down now.”
A number of other measures including the Stop Funding the PLA Act, which would protect U.S. investments from flowing to China’s military-industrial base, are being introduced by the RSC, according to Banks.
“We’ve made countering communist China a platform of the RSC for the first time, under my leadership,” Banks told The Epoch Times. “It deserves our attention, and as the largest caucus, our members understand this is the greatest threat that we face and that we have to confront it.”
The anti-CCP agenda will be a “top priority” for the organization over the next couple of years, he said.
Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.