News June 26, 2020

One China under media heaven: How Beijing hones its skills in information operations

Traditionally, China’s influence toolbox has contained a mixture of public diplomacy and propaganda targeting political and economic elites, but in recent years, it has added new tools and techniques to its influence portfolio and focused on new targets. As a result, it is highly likely that China is now able to penetrate societies abroad more efficiently. This Strategic Analysis focuses on how  China’s information operations in the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)have changed.

Although China is a relative novice in using information operations in Central and Eastern Europe, it has already succeeded in establishing a network of supportive “proxies” who, whilst having diverse motives, help to disseminate Chinese narratives. Before 2019, China’s modus operandi in Central and Eastern Europe focused on boosting its image and spreading “positive energy” about the People’s Republic of China. The narrative was spread by Chinese state-affiliated actors, but also via media that China invested in, and through local proxies. In 2019 the ways changed considerably, and China expanded its public diplomacy and propaganda in order to rewrite the narrative on the protests in Hong Kong.

Chinese state-affiliated actors have intensified their presence in social media, mostly on Facebook and Twitter and during the outbreak of the coronavirus China used the already established avenues, but changed its tactics by borrowing new techniques from the Russian information operations playbook. Beijing also utilizes channels of communication previously established in the region by Russia, and has started employing disinformation tactics, including fake videos. Given the tightening of the Chinese system at home and deteriorating relations with both Europe and the United States, further exploration and exploitation of techniques used by other malign international actors is to be expected. China seems to be a fast learner.

Read the article written by Dr. Ivana Karásková, founder and project leader of MapInfluenCE (formerly ChinfluenCE) and China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe (CHOICE) here.

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