Analysis of China’s information warfare tactics against Chinese Americans (Case 1)
To attack an opponent using his own devices. (“以子之矛，攻子之盾”idiom, derived from Han Feizi 韓非子|韩非子)
- Exploiting the freedom of information in free countries for misinformation dissemination is one of the Chinese government’s main tactics in its 2019 information war.
- The information war waged by the Chinese government is not far from Americans; it is happening all around every American.
- Now, the definition of information warfare is not limited to misinformation, brainwashing, and government actions that exert influence on the perceptions of people in other countries. It also includes the probing of the will of others, the changing of public opinion, and so on. Information warfare tactics have become more cunning and covert.
- The Chinese government’s information warfare targets are not limited to Chinese people around the world. It also includes people of almost every language and cultural background around the world.
In 2019, after the COVID pandemic occurs, information warfare becomes even more important for the Chinese Communist Party’s purpose of covering up the truth. Whether it is Chinese diplomats, Chinese cyber forces, propaganda agencies, individuals employed by the government, or individuals whose freedom is restricted by the Chinese government, all are involved in this information war against the free world.
The following Twitter account is one of the case studies.
In fig 1. This Twitter account is, on the face of it, a normal Chinese young girl. (It is a hallmark of Chinese propaganda system accounts to appear to be an ordinary Chinese person and the vast majority of accounts claim to be female.) Claiming to have had several Twitter accounts shut down by Twitter Inc. (This is used to garner sympathy from the target audience and to attack freedom of speech in free countries as hypocritical to show that China’s space for speech is not narrow.) And in the account profile, attach symbols that fit the values of young people in Western countries, such as rainbow patterns, to disguise themselves as supporting the LGBTQ community, and if the account is verbally attacked by anyone, stigmatize them as homophobic, or racist.
In fig 2. The account’s associated accounts show that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also follows the account and that accounts with interests linked to China’s propaganda system also follow the account. (This is another feature of Chinese propaganda system accounts that are followed by Chinese official figures)
In fig 3. This account focuses on attacking the problems that exist in American society, such as gun violence. To promote or exaggerate the problem of gun violence in the United States to more Chinese speakers.
In fig 4. This account posted a video showing recordings of the Chinese Air Force driving away foreign military aircraft. It presents China as a victim to Chinese speakers and stirs up nationalist sentiment.
In fig 5. The account posted a video of Afghans working as interpreters for U.S. troops in Afghanistan asking Biden not to leave them in a dangerous situation. This is to reinforce the image of the U.S. as a reckless aggressor in the minds of Chinese speakers and to promote the image of the U.S. abandoning its allies.
What is shown in the five screenshots above is not all of this account’s tweets, but it is a good example of how this officially controlled Chinese Twitter account can influence the consciousness of any Chinese speakers who see them.
Overall, such tactics are both shrewd and foolish. First of all, these tweets look very unlike the tweets of an ordinary young Chinese girl. In terms of the timeliness of the news, this account is posting information that keeps up with current events. From the Hong Kong protests to the COVID pandemic, this account has done a great job of manipulating public opinion. And the language used in the tweets is not simply abusive and shouting, but more taunting and mocking. From this perspective, it is not simply conceptual output, but psychological manipulation. And there are thousands of such accounts on Twitter. In future articles, I will introduce more such accounts, many of which have English accounts as well.
The information war is all around us, so I personally don’t agree with spending too much time on social media, from the shallow information one can only get stupid fallacies. Only from the thinking that comes from reading can one gain true wisdom.