US media is reporting on the various ways Chinese actors are spreading propaganda and disinformation about China’s Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government is waging a campaign against its Uyghur Muslim minority. According to a Lawfare report:
December 1, 2021 China engages in a great deal of traditional propaganda driven by a range of state-controlled media outlets that push content in several languages across every form of media. These outlets have worked to undermine accusations of human rights violations made by “anti-China forces.” […] State media’s messaging is supported by other official government Twitter accounts. Zhao Lijian, deputy director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, messaged his 1 million followers an average of once a day in English about Xinjiang throughout October and early November 2021. […] Alongside these overt propaganda efforts, China has invited foreign journalists and other guests to view the Xinjiang province firsthand. Some Western journalists have come away from these trips clearly very skeptical. Others, however, have taken up the party’s line and are eagerly magnified by state media. […] In addition to individual journalists, China has recruited entire publications to help propagate its messages. The Helsinki Times, for instance, which proclaims in its own header to be “News from Finland,” has a large portion of its content supplied in English “in cooperation” with China’s People’s Daily—likely often unbeknownst to the reader. […] With a swarm of inauthentic social media accounts, China’s efforts move from old-fashioned propaganda to 21st century disinformation. The ways in which China employs inauthentic troll accounts in this case, however, differ from what is typically seen in the context of Russian troll accounts. Analysis of Russian disinformation has shown that, in the past, Russian trolls have used social media offensively, attacking the West by integrating themselves into identity groups and working to undermine institutions while pulling conversations in more extreme directions. The Chinese trolls talking about Xinjiang, and arguably most troll accounts from past Chinese campaigns, are defensive trolls. They don’t work to attack the West; rather, they attempt to defend China’s interests.
Read the full report here.
The GIOR has extensively covered Chinese disinformation efforts regarding the situation in Xinjiang. We were the first to uncover a network of inauthentic social media accounts flooding YouTube with hundreds of Chinese propaganda videos whitewashing China’s human rights violations against the Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang and pushing the hashtag #StopXinjiangRumors. Several months after we published our findings, the New York Times published a major investigation into the same Chinese influence operation first covered by the GIOR.