Amid Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit, Chinese Disinformation Effort Goes into High Gear

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

It’s not just Russia. The visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan greatly angered China and added fuel to rapidly growing Chinese Communist (Chicom) disinformation efforts against Taiwan and the United States.

According to U.S. cybersecurity company Mandiant, a new Chinese group used fake news sites and social media accounts to undermine US-Taiwanese relations before and during the visit.

The group used similar methods to promote false information on events from the recent Supreme Court abortion ruling to bioweapons in Ukraine.

Defense One reported that:

Mandiant discovered that the Chinese group, dubbed HaiEnergy, had published “two articles critical” of Pelosi, D-Calif., “in response to reports that she may visit Taiwan in early August. The articles [published on August 1] assert that Pelosi should ‘stay away from Taiwan’ and highlight perceived tarnished relations between the U.S. and Taiwan,” Mandiant said in a blog post released Thursday.

The HaiEnergy group published fake articles across a variety of fake news outlets. HaiEnergy also attacked former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Taiwan in March, using fake Taiwanese news sites, and pushed the narrative that the United States would be an unreliable partner to Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. 

Defense One added:

HaiEnergy appears to be related to a China-based PR firm called Haixun. Mandiant says they don’t yet have enough evidence to show Haixun is intentionally involved. However, the fake news sites use hosting services from the PR company. 

“Our analysis indicates that the campaign has at least leveraged services and infrastructure belonging to Haixun to host and distribute content. In total, we identified 72 websites (59 domains and 14 subdomains) hosted by Haixun, which were used to target audiences in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia,” Mandiant reports. 

But it’s not just fake news and disinformation spread globally. China is also increasing its hacking and cyberwarfare efforts.

Defense One noted that: “During Pelosi’s visit, the Taiwanese government was hit with a coordinated denial of service attack to block web users from accessing sites, which lasted for about 20 minutes, according to reports.

John Hultquist, the vice president of intelligence analysis at Mandiant, also said in a statement:

The situation in Taiwan has already led to cyber threat activity, some of which is apparent, like [denial of service] attacks on websites in Taiwan. Two Chinese information operations we track have shifted their narratives in recent days to a focus on U.S. House Speaker Pelosi’s expected visit and the supposed dangers of the situation. We anticipate that Chinese actors are also carrying out significant cyber espionage against targets in Taiwan and the U.S. to provide intelligence on the crisis.

The new Chicom group spreads disinformation in many different languages.

In Ukrainian, it claimed that the U.S. was conducting biowarfare experiments in Ukraine. They’ve run articles in English alleging that police have violently attacked pro-abortion protestors in the U.S. after the recent Supreme Court decision.

Mandiant also claims the shadowy group is behind numerous posts and articles targeting academics who openly discuss China’s well-documented human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

For example, the Chinese group created fake letters to show that U.S. government sources funded a German academic.

The group first tweeted a photo of a fabricated letter with spelling and grammatical errors in standard disinformation practice. It then used a fake Swiss news site to “report” on the tweet.

While most experts obsessively focus on Russian efforts, expect a lot more increasingly sophisticated Chicom disinformation leading up to the November midterm elections and beyond. ADN


Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - paulcrespo.substack.com - PAULCRESPO.COM


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

People, Places & Things