China’s disinformation campaign detrimental to global peace and stability

The allegations of recent times about China manipulating information to influence people’s opinion in other countries have made headlines again as Taiwan now has expressed concerns over Chinese elements being engaged in a disinformation campaign as the island nation goes to elections in January 2024. While many nations have slammed the China-led disinformation campaign, there are concerns that it may undermine global peace and stability.

It is not Taiwan but several other countries blamed China for spreading disinformation to influence public opinion, manipulate election outcomes and build a pro-China narrative. Recently, the European Union (EU) came down heavily on China for disinformation and cyberattacks in the Ukraine crisis. European Union digital chief Věra Jourová asked China’s Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing “that no territory is used for malicious cyber activities.”[1] Recently, Czechia blamed China for targeting its people with disinformation activities.[2]

A recent report by the US Department of State’s Global Information Environment revealed Beijing spend billions of dollars annually

on foreign information manipulation efforts. “Beijing uses false or biased information to promote positive views of the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At the same time, the PRC suppresses critical information that contradicts its desired narratives on issues such as Taiwan, its human rights practices, the South China Sea, its domestic economy, and international economic engagement,” it said.[3]

The reported Chinese tactics of disinformation have reached the extent of the creation of deepfake videos. One recent such deepfake video showed the Taiwanese president praising China’s achievements.[4] If Taiwan’s intelligence agencies were to believe, Wang Huning, the fourth-ranking leader in the China Communist Party (CCP) held a meeting on how to influence the Taiwanese election through disinformation,  without living any piece of evidence. The main objective is to defame Taiwan and build a positive narrative for electoral candidates who are favoured by Beijing.[5]

Chinese top diplomat Lijian Zhao was found sharing a doctored image of the Fukushima nuclear power plant releasing contaminated water into the sea. This came even after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) endorsed Japan’s plan to release treated water. “Chinese officials, state media, and pro-China influencers amplified disinformation and narratives related to the wastewater release in line with the Chinese government’s statements opposing the move,” said a UK-based data analysis firm named Logically AI.[6]  

The disinformation cost Japan heavily as the imports of Japanese seafood plummeted by 67.6 percent in August 2023 year-on-year thanks to the Chinese propaganda about the risks of the “radioactive contamination of food safety”.[7] Hamsini Hariharan, a subject matter expert at Logically AI, said “This isn’t about food safety, China itself has had a lot of scandals regarding food safety. It is quite evident that this is politically motivated.”[8]

The US appears to be on China’s priority list in the disinformation propaganda as well. As the Israel-Hamas conflict grapples the world, an AI-generated video with an American accent has been uploaded on YouTube, which claimed the US failed to “play its role as a mediator like China”.[9]  

Jacinta Keast, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the Chinese disinformation campaign has used artificial intelligence to create persuasive threat content at scale at a very limited cost. She said the campaign was “one of the most successful influence operations related to China ever witnessed on social media.”[10]

Meta company which owns popular Facebook and Instagram apps said it deleted thousands of fake accounts created in China which tried to polarise political content in the wake of elections in the US.[11] Sarah Cook, senior advisor at Washington DC-based Freedom House said Beijing has been involved in global disinformation campaigns since 2017 but the manipulation efforts have spread across more platforms, languages, and geographic audiences now.[12] “The use of cyberbullying, fake social media accounts, and targeted disinformation campaigns are among the tactics that have been employed more widely since 2019,” she said.[13]

Countries like India, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea are regular targets of China’s disinformation campaign. South Korea has signed an agreement with the US to fight China’s deceptive disinformation war.[14] However, not all countries are capable to counter to do so, thus leaving them vulnerable, said Cook.[15]          The Global Information Environment report said “Unchecked, the PRC’s efforts will reshape the global information landscape, creating biases and gaps that could even lead nations to make decisions that subordinate their economic and security interests to Beijing’s.”.[16]

















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