US warns of Chinese global disinformation campaign that could undermine peace and stability

Oct 3, 2023, 9:09 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — For much of the world, China’s Xinjiang region is notorious, a place where ethnic Uyghurs face forced labor and arbitrary detention. But a group of visiting foreign journalists was left with a decidedly different impression.

On a tour in late September sponsored by Beijing, the 22 journalists from 17 countries visited bazaars and chatted with residents over dates and watermelon slices. They later told state media they were impressed with the bustling economy, described the region as “full of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity,” and denounced what they said were lies by Western media.

The trip is an example of what Washington sees as Beijing’s growing efforts to reshape the global narrative on China. It’s spending billions of dollars annually to do so.

In a first-of-its-kind report, the State Department last week laid out Beijing’s tactics and techniques for molding public opinion, such as buying content, creating fake personas to spread its message and using repression to quash unfavorable accounts.

The Global Engagement Center, a State Department agency tasked with combating foreign propaganda and disinformation and which released the 58-page report, warned that Beijing’s information campaign could eventually sway how decisions are made around the world and undermine U.S. interests.

“Unchecked, the (Chinese government’s) information manipulation could in many parts of the world diminish freedom to express views critical of Beijing,” said Jamie Rubin, who heads the center. He said Beijing’s efforts could “transform the global information landscape and damage the security and stability of the United States, its friends, and partners.”

“We don’t want to see an Orwellian mix of fact and fiction in our world,” he said. “That will destroy the secure world of rules and rights that the United States and much of the world relies upon.”

China over the weekend slammed the report, calling it “in itself disinformation as it misrepresents facts and truth.”

“In fact, it is the U.S. that invented the weaponizing of the global information space,” the Chinese foreign ministry said. It called the State Department agency “a source of disinformation and the command center of ‘perception warfare.’”

In a written statement, Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said the report was “just another tool to keep China down and buttress American hegemony.”

Beijing argues that Western media have long held biases against China and at times have demonized it. Chinese President Xi Jinping has demanded that China tell its story to the world so Beijing would be trusted and respected.

But U.S. government officials say Beijing is advancing its agenda through coercion and lies. In one case outlined by the report, the Chinese government created a fake commentator named Yi Fan, whose pro-Beijing writings have appeared in publications in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In social media, Beijing deploys armies of bots, trolls and coordinated campaigns to suppress critical content and boost pro-Beijing messages, the report said. China-made phones sold overseas have been found to come with censorship capabilities.

A national security law in Hong Kong has allowed authorities to prosecute those who live overseas but criticize Beijing’s policy in the territory, according to the report. On Ukraine, Beijing has cooperated with Moscow to amplify the Kremlin’s false claims, it said.

In Xinjiang, Beijing has brought in diplomats and foreign journalists on tightly orchestrated trips with minders in tow.

The aim is to counter allegations that Beijing has mistreated the country’s 11 million ethnic Uyghurs through arbitrary detention and labor programs that send Uyghurs to work in factories far from their homes.

A United Nations report last year said the acts by Beijing in Xinjiang might constitute crimes against humanity. The U.S. government went further, saying the actions constitute genocide against the Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslim.

On the latest such trip to Xinjiang, the journalists praised Beijing’s efforts in preserving the region’s traditional culture, creating a harmonious and prosperous life for people of all ethnicities and religions, the party-run Global Times newspaper reported.

One Iranian journalist described the northwestern region as a beautiful Persian rug with different colors and patterns weaved together, according to China News, another state-run news agency.

Meanwhile, Beijing has banned independent reporting in Xinjiang by Western journalists, and it has sought to silence criticism from Uyghurs overseas by threatening to punish their family members at home and deny them entry into China.

While the State Department report focused on Beijing’s global influence efforts outside the United States, its findings are similar to those documented in the U.S. by think tanks and advocacy groups.

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, Sarah Cook, a senior adviser for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Freedom House, said Beijing’s disinformation campaign targeting the U.S. could sow discord and might influence election results at the local level, especially in districts with large Chinese American voters. They are more likely to be using WeChat, a popular Chinese-language messaging app heavily controlled by Beijing, she said.

Glenn Tiffert, who co-chairs a project on China’s influence campaigns at the Hoover Institute, told the committee that the use of new technology, such as artificial intelligence, could allow Beijing to better interfere with U.S. elections.

United States News

Associated Press

The Ten Commandments must be displayed in Louisiana classrooms under requirement signed into law

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom under a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on Wednesday. The GOP-drafted legislation mandates that a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” be […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Survivors of New Hampshire motorcycle crash that killed 7 urge a judge to keep trucker off the road

Relatives and friends of seven motorcyclists who died in a 2019 crash urged New Hampshire officials Wednesday not to allow the trucker back on the state’s roadways. A jury in 2022 found Volodymyr Zhukovskyy not guilty of multiple manslaughter and negligent homicide counts stemming from the June 21, 2019, collision in Randolph that killed seven […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New York requiring paid break time for moms who need to pump breast milk at work, under new law

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York moms returning to work after giving birth will now get paid break time when they need to pump breast milk at their jobs, under a new law that took effect Wednesday. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the law requires employers in the state to provide a half hour of paid […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Cooler temps and rain could help corral blazes that forced thousands to flee New Mexico village

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Cooler weather — and the chance of rain — could bring some relief but also the risk of danger this week to firefighters battling blazes in southern New Mexico that killed one person, damaged hundreds of structures and forced thousands to evacuate. Strong wind pushed the larger of two wildfires into […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Immigrant families rejoice over Biden’s expansive move toward citizenship, while some are left out

HOUSTON (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of immigrants had reason to rejoice when President Joe Biden unveiled a highly expansive plan to extend legal status to spouses of U.S. citizens but, inevitably, some were left out. Claudia Zúniga, 35, married in 2017, or 10 years after her husband came to the United States. He moved […]

15 hours ago

Associated Press

Scorching temperatures, humidity making life miserable for millions from Midwest to Maine

BOSTON (AP) — A blistering heat wave Wednesday extended from the Midwest to New England, leaving millions of people sweltering through the Juneteenth holiday, including in places like northern Maine where they rarely experience such conditions this early in the year. The city of Caribou, Maine, just 10 miles from the Canadian border, saw a […]

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

US warns of Chinese global disinformation campaign that could undermine peace and stability