It is often said that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” China has been in the forefront of the Covad-19 pandemic. The press has widely covered allegations of Chinese efforts to disinform the American public by providing false information about the virus and by trying to foment panic.
Two articles chronicling the disinformation campaigns are: Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say, NY Times, April 22, 2020 (see: https://nyti.ms/2Y555gb, which is a photo source and China’s Disinformation Addiction: Spreading Disinformation on COVID-19, April 25, 2020 ClearanceJobs (see: https://bit.ly/3bFwCJd, also a photo source).
According to the NY Times, “American officials were alarmed by fake text messages and social media posts that said President Trump was locking down the country. Experts see a convergence with Russian tactics.” The Times added “The messages became so widespread over 48 hours that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitter that they were “FAKE.”.
The Clearance Job article concluded by saying “None of this is really a surprise as China struggles to save face as the world looks to the country for answers to very hard questions. China would much rather have the world think the United States was about to impose martial law than to have their own actions dissected.” That article also quotes a March 2019 report from the Department of State “Weapons of Mass Distraction Foreign State Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age (pdf)” the portion on China minces no words. They assert that China’s efforts are designed to influence economic, political and foster personal relationships.”
While these offensive efforts are certainly concerning, perhaps we should pay more attention to the way China burnishes their brand in other ways. China, more than any other country seems to have grasped the concept of offensive and defensive influence operations. This is demonstrated by way that they pressure economic partners to give their image a break and on the other, they strive to disorient their adversaries.
The movie character Jerry McGuire said it best “Show me the money!” (see: https://bit.ly/2yRWrqA (You Tube clip and photo source)
The NY Times, April 24, 2020: ran an article “Pressured by China, E.U. Softens Report on Covid-19 Disinformation” (see: https://nyti.ms/2KzFvrI and a photo source.) In what is clearly a measure of effectiveness, according to the Times, “Bowing to heavy pressure from Beijing, European Union officials softened their criticism of China this week in a report documenting how governments push disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents, emails and interviews.”
The Chinese recognize the importance of brand management and economic leverage. They employ a whole of government approach to move their country’s agenda forward.
Can we say the same?