Despite all the talk of Russian disinformation efforts, the Commander of America’s Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), Admiral Phillip Davidson, just informed Congress of China’s “vast disinformation machine” with a million people behind it, that dwarfs any similar Russian effort. This massive machine is fighting to subvert the United States and other democratic systems.
As Newsweek notes, China is using this army to “Beijing works to divide Washington, D.C. and its Asian allies and establish hegemony in the Pacific.”
Admiral Davidson added that Beijing’s goal is “to undermine U.S. interests, to capture the narrative to their own benefit and to…corrupt the environment in a way that creates doubt amongst our allies and partners in the reliability of the United States.”
While Russia is certainly engaged in significant disinformation efforts to undermine democracies and rivals worldwide, Davidson said Moscow’s tactics differ in acting “much more like a spoiler.” Russia works to “deny the visions” of rivals, says Davidson.
In contrast, the Chinese strive to malign its democratic, western rivals and laud its own authoritarian, “communist” system, Davidson said. More concerning is that China’s subversive propaganda efforts have grown exponentially in recent years. Newsweek explains:
…concerns about such operations have deepened in recent years as Beijing increases its media output around human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet and elsewhere; trade disputes with the U.S.; territorial tensions along the border with India, in the South China Sea, and around Taiwan; and the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19, in particular, prompted a broad disinformation effort by the Chinese Communist Party, which sought to dodge blame for the pandemic’s spread beyond Chinese borders and malign the efforts of its rivals, especially Europe and the U.S., to handle the virus’ spread and subsequent economic dislocation.
China’s disinformation efforts are an element of Beijing’s plan to dominate Asia, Davidson said, displacing the American hegemony established after the Second World War. The U.S. is increasingly looking to Asia as the next theater of great power competition, with successive presidents putting more emphasis on and resources into the region.
A Cold War-era effort is needed, Davidson told senators, recommending that the U.S. dramatically increase its messaging efforts “across the globe.” The U.S., Davidson urged, should harness the “immense power” that the Cold War-era State Department employed to promote America’s democratic, capitalist system against Soviet disinformation, to now combat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda.