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China spending billions to reshape global information environment, destroy democratic values

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep29’23) – The US State Department has issued a stark warning in a report Sep 28, accusing the Chinese government of spending billions of dollars to expand efforts to control information, disseminate propaganda and disinformation that promotes “digital authoritarianism” in China and around the world. The efforts threaten to cause a “sharp contraction” in freedom of speech around the world, the report added.

The report warned that China now had the “potential to reshape the global information environment.”

“Beijing would develop a surgical capability to shape the information particular groups and even individuals consume. And the international information landscape would feature significant gaps and inherent pro-PRC biases,” the almost 60-page report concluded, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The report, released by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), which combats foreign propaganda and disinformation, said Beijing spends billions of dollars annually on “foreign information manipulation” through the use of propaganda, disinformation and censorship, while promoting positive news about China and its ruling Communist Party.

At the same time, the report said, China suppresses critical information that contradicts its narratives on contentious issues such as Taiwan, human rights and its flagging domestic economy.

“When you look at the pieces of the puzzle and you put it together, you see a breathtaking ambition on the part of the PRC to seek information dominance in key regions of the world,” the AFP Sep 29 quoted James Rubin, GEC special envoy and coordinator, as telling reporters.

“If we don’t allow this information manipulation to be stopped, there’s going to be a slow, steady destruction of democratic values,” he has said. “We don’t want to see an Orwellian mix of fact and fiction in our world.”

The report said China’s approach to information manipulation includes promoting “digital authoritarianism,” exploiting international organizations and exercising control of Chinese-language media.

It noted that Beijing had also acquired stakes in foreign media, sponsored online influencers and sought to co-opt foreign political elites and journalists.

In East Africa, for example, China had “paid for favorable coverage” in a local newspaper while concealing its sponsorship of content. Also, it had sought to gain “significant control over Pakistani media,” the report said.

The purpose of it all, the report said, is to enable Beijing to “reshape the global information environment.”

In particular, the report accused China of exploiting social media site WeChat to disseminate disinformation targeting “Chinese-language speakers residing in democracies,” and Chinese technology giant ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, of seeking to “block potential critics of Beijing from using its platforms.”

The report followed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remark on Sep 28 that China was seeking to surpass the United States as the “dominant power in the world – militarily, economically, diplomatically.”

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