US media is reporting that the Chinese government has hired a US firm to recruit social media influencers to promote the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. According to a report by Open Secrets:
December 13, 2021 The Chinese government hired a firm to recruit social media influencers as part of a new digital operation amid controversies surrounding diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, OpenSecrets’ review of Foreign Agents Registration Act Records found. The influence operation is being coordinated by Vippi Media, a consulting firm based in New Jersey, as part of a $300,000 contract that spans through March 2022. China’s Consulate General in New York paid $210,000 in advance on Nov. 23. As part of the online influence campaign to promote the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and the 2022 Paralympics, the Chinese government is paying the firm to recruit influencers who are “to be activated to drive viewership, mass awareness and premium content” for China.
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The report notes that the new online influence operation comes amidst international backlash against China over an array of alleged human rights abuses that led the White House to announce that President Joe Biden’s administration “will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.”
In May, we reported that China had become the top spender on foreign influence operations in the US, with Chinese foreign agent spending skyrocketing from just over $10 million in 2016 to nearly $64 million in 2020. We have also reported that China’s US foreign influence operation budget is focused mainly on television broadcasting and other media activities.