Technology becomes CCP’s new frontier to expand its influence

The CCP’s control over social media continues to expand as it aims to control the global narrative and present a favorable image to the world.

As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) becomes more determined to shape the global discourse in its favor, its approach in this regard becomes sophisticated.

Global social media platforms have become the arena for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to expand its influence and dox criticism. The CCP hires private companies to produce content that can be used in influence operations, in what it calls “public opinion management,” an international media outlet revealed. While the Party deploys global social media platforms to spread its propaganda, they are prohibited for ordinary residents living in China.

Social media appears to have been particularly useful for the CCP in the post-truth world where facts and empirical evidence have less weight in shaping mass opinion than accounts from social media, which appeal to emotion. One example is the claim by a Swiss biologist that the US government was hampering efforts by the World Health Organization to focus on the starting point of the coronavirus pandemic. While the Swiss Embassy in China clarified that the said biologist simply does not exist, that hasn’t stopped the Chinese state-controlled media from amplifying the fantastic claims.

The CCP has been criticized for human rights violations against the Uyghur minority group in its Xinjiang province and the relentless crackdown on activists advocating greater freedoms in Hong Kong, among others.

The CCP deploys the concept of “United Front” to co-opt and compensate for the sources of resistance to its programs. The CPC’s United Front Labor Department – the unit responsible for coordinating different types of influence operations – focused on tackling potential opposition groups internally. In early 2021, the unit updated guidelines for the conduct of domestic and foreign influence operations. The new regulations, which update the 2015 manual, indicate that the activities of the United Front have expanded. The new guidelines explain in detail the importance of providing “advice” to Chinese returning from abroad and to those based abroad, including their families in China. First, they outline the United Front’s emphasis on “new social classes,” which includes the media, knowledge workers and other highly skilled Chinese employees of foreign-invested companies and organizations. social.

Since the start of the pandemic, China’s relations with many major world powers have deteriorated. The CCP has been criticized for human rights violations against the Uyghur minority group in its Xinjiang province and the relentless crackdown on activists advocating greater freedoms in Hong Kong, among others. He is also fighting US efforts to expand investigations into whether or not COVID-19 originated from a research center on the continent. A Pew Research Center survey in 17 countries published in June 2021 found that its citizens have developed unfavorable opinions about China since the start of the pandemic (see graph).

Source: Pew Research Center

China’s diplomatic corps has grown louder and louder in recent years and has gone so far as to blame governments for taking a mildly critical stance.

The strategy billed as the diplomacy of “Wolf Warrior” is a blockbuster film in which Chinese special forces challenge makeshift American soldiers.

Amid these developments, Xi Jinping stressed that China must tell its story in a positive way and that it is imperative to forge friendships and constantly expand the circle of friends vis-à-vis the public. international. In this business, storytelling through cyberspace is a key tool.

Xi realized early on the potential of the Internet as a propaganda tool. Through WeChat and Weibo, China’s popular mobile messaging app and microblogging site, Xi has been promoting his campaign against corruption and building a personal following. Despite Facebook’s ban in China, the CCP has used the platform to promote Xi’s profile during his state visits to other countries.

“The Internet has become the main battleground in the struggle of public opinion,” Xi said at the National Propaganda and Ideology Working Conference in 2013. He then decided to quickly consolidate the institutions regulating the cyberspace in China. A year later, he took over the Central Internet Security and Informationised Leading Group and reconstituted the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The ruling group was previously led by the Chinese premier, and the changes have given Xi greater control over the country’s internet policy. Xi’s choice to head the ACC, Lu Wei, who had worked as a reporter for the state agency Xinhua, argued in an essay in the CCP newspaper “Qiushi” (meaning seeking the truth) that the Party must have a grip on information technology. He said there was “no economic, financial or national security without information security”.

Amazon, one of the top five IT companies in the United States, tampered with its online store ratings for a book Xi wrote after a push from the CCP.

The CCP conceives of cyberspace as an “Internet civilization” – where civilized forces are deployed against selfishly motivated ones who want to disseminate “harmful” information. The CCP’s propaganda theorist Liu Yunshan argued that “the nation’s approach to the development of the Internet would prioritize consolidating the direction of online public opinion and promoting the development of the Internet. consolidation of positive public opinion. Domestically, China has an army of cyber warriors to maintain its authority over information flows, called “Internet public opinion analysts.” These personnel are deployed in government propaganda units, private companies and the media. A review of Chinese social media revealed that Party activity shapes Internet discourse, posting up to 488 million posts online each year and removing negative ones. In addition, Chinese Big Techs have “red genes”; Robin Li of Baidu and Qihoo 360 Technology (Internet Security Service Provider) Zhou Hongyi are members of the advisory body of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

China presents a great opportunity for Big Techs, and thus, the deans of the Internet are seeking to be in the right books of the CCP. Amazon, one of the top five IT companies in the United States, tampered with its online store ratings for a book Xi wrote after a push from the CCP. Microsoft’s professional networking site, LinkedIn, has blocked access to the accounts of Greg Bruno and other journalists for users in China. Bruno, who documented the conditions of the Tibetans, said he was disappointed that a US technology major “was giving in to the demands of a foreign government.” US Senator Rick Scott signaled the appeasement of Communist China in letters to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky and Microsoft boss Satya Nadella.

Thus, social media, which has been a catalyst for social change in Africa and West Asia by playing their part in the “Jasmine Revolution” and the “Arab Spring”, has unwittingly or otherwise become an instrument for the operations of influence of the CCP. In addition, the penetration of global media platforms and their use by the CCP to expand its influence poses a huge challenge to democracies across the world. The CCP’s domestic Internet subversion in China has now encouraged it to impose its model elsewhere. Social media has become a major pillar of public participation in democracies, it also acts as a barometer of public opinion. In recent times, as the concept of democracy is hotly debated in different parts of the world, democracies need to stress China’s double standards in the use of social media platforms in democracies, and CCP national legislation that criminalizes the spreading of rumors that “undermine the economy and society order,” and mandate its own social media platforms to repost recorded news media reports.

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