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China’s Information Manipulation Operations In Europe

January 12th, 2022 15:52

MERICS, a Euro­pean think tank work­ing on Chi­na, has recent­ly pub­lished a pod­cast exam­in­ing Chi­nese infor­ma­tion manip­u­la­tion oper­a­tions and pro­pa­gan­da efforts in Europe. Accord­ing to the Podcast:

Decem­ber 3, 2021 In this episode of our EU-Chi­na pod­cast series, we look at how Chi­na spreads dis­in­for­ma­tion in Europe. We explore pat­terns in China’s dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tions, eval­u­ate how effec­tive they are and what has the EU been doing to address this challenge.

Lis­ten to the full pod­cast here.

The con­clu­sions of the pod­cast included:

  • Chi­na is quite open about its use of pro­pa­gan­da which it sees as a proac­tive tool to edu­cate and shape opin­ions in order to con­tribute to a “har­mo­nious society.”
  • Before 2019, Chi­na main­ly used pro­pa­gan­da to boost its image in Europe, for exam­ple, through invest­ments in tra­di­tion­al media and op-eds by its ambassadors.
  • Fol­low­ing the Honk Kong protests in 2019, China’s tools and objec­tives changed, and the coun­try adopt­ed more coor­di­nat­ed efforts to rewrite the nar­ra­tive about the protests. This was accom­plished through alter­na­tive or fringe media out­lets, PR agen­cies, or paid sup­ple­ments in Euro­pean news­pa­pers. Chi­na also increas­ing­ly used prox­ies to spread its mes­sages, invest­ing heav­i­ly in lob­by asso­ci­a­tions, think tanks, and con­sul­tan­cies in Europe that spread pro-Chi­na narratives.
  • Since the out­break of Covid-19 in 2020, Chi­na has adopt­ed new tac­tics and focus­es more on social media to cre­ate ‘alter­na­tive ver­sions of truth,’ manip­u­lat­ing social media, hir­ing social media influ­encers, and even out­sourc­ing its online influ­ence oper­a­tions to pri­vate contractors.

As a con­se­quence of China’s increas­ing infor­ma­tion manip­u­la­tion and influ­ence oper­a­tions in Europe, a Euro­pean Par­lia­men­tary Spe­cial Com­mit­tee has recent­ly iden­ti­fied  Chi­na as a lead­ing for­eign inter­fer­ence actor.