Addressing China’s Coercive Tactics
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) takes advantage of the freedoms of the United States and other democracies to advance its own ideologically-driven narratives and manipulate world press coverage. The CCP accomplishes this by using government-owned or operated media outlets, as well as CCP-controlled “educational” and “cultural institutes” strategically located in the United States and overseas.
Key representatives of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) actively use Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, all banned inside China, to spread lies and false narratives approved by the CCP core leadership. These entities serve to disseminate propaganda and disinformation while suppressing criticism about the CCP.
Within China, the CCP controls the media and all forms of debate and information. The CCP also bans virtually all domestic access to international news and media outlets, threatens and intimidates foreign journalists who report critical stories about the CCP, and actively monitors and obstructs the flow of data through telecom networks and smartphone apps.
Globally, the CCP exerts pressure on software developers and telecom service providers to ensure any dialogue critical of China—on issues including human rights, Taiwan, Tibet, the Tiananmen Square massacre, Hong Kong, and other “sensitive” topics—is either suppressed or presented in a positive light. The CCP also uses its economic weight to threaten and coerce entertainment companies, automakers, sports teams, airlines, and any other company with exposure to the Chinese market to self-censor products, advertising, and public statements in order to fall in line with CCP messaging.
As PRC President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has explicitly acknowledged, the CCP views PRC media entities as tools to support the CCP’s continued power. This approach is in line with Marxist-Leninist thought that to control a people, you must control their minds. Government-run media propagates disinformation worldwide by misrepresenting facts, censoring inconvenient truths, and skewing reporting to fit the CCP’s preferred narratives. The PRC government has greatly expanded its overseas propaganda operations in recent years, including in the United States.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of State determined that certain PRC-affiliated media entities operating in the United States were effectively controlled by a foreign government, thus meeting the definition of a “foreign mission” under the Foreign Missions Act. The Department proceeded to designate 15 PRC-affiliated media entities operating in the United States as foreign missions of the PRC and subsequently placed personnel caps on some.
Video | The CCP Spreads Propaganda october 20, 2020
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The PRC has established and helped fund hundreds of Confucius Institutes (CIs) worldwide since 2004, including on U.S. college and university campuses. CIs are frequently staffed by a combination of Chinese scholars, local faculty, and CCP-selected Chinese instructors who teach a narrow, CCP-sanctioned version of Chinese language, history, and culture. The National Association of Scholars tracks over 70 CIs still in operation within the United States. Faculty at host universities report pressure and threats from CIs to remove funding for individuals or activities deemed critical of the PRC. Similarly, Confucius Classrooms provide CCP-sanctioned curriculum and PRC-trained teachers at hundreds of U.S. K-12 schools reaching tens of thousands of U.S. schoolchildren every day.
In response, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits universities that host CIs from receiving U.S. Defense Department funding for Chinese language study. Also, since 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has urged U.S. colleges and universities to reexamine ties, stating that CIs pose threats to national security and academic freedom. In August 2020, the U.S. State Department designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) in Washington, D.C. as a foreign mission of the People’s Republic of China. This action did not close CIUS, nor did it require U.S. colleges or universities to close individual Confucius Institutes. Instead, this designation aims to increase transparency by identifying CIUS as an entity that is effectively controlled by the PRC government and requiring CIUS to provide information about its operations to the State Department.
Video | threats posed by the CCP to American Universities
september 22, 2020
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The United Front is the third of the CCP’s so-called “magic weapons” to seize and maintain total political power, alongside Armed Struggle and Party Building. The CCP uses what it calls the work of a “United Front” of organizations and constituencies to co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to its policies and authority. The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) is responsible for coordinating domestic and foreign influence operations, through propaganda and manipulation of susceptible audiences and individuals.
The CCP’s United Front permeates every aspect of its extensive engagements with the international community. It targets the highest levels of Western democracies, creates a permanent class of China lobbyists whose primary job is to sell access to high level Chinese leaders to corporate America. The United Front has also penetrated deeply into state, local and municipal governments through a myriad of front organizations such as the CCP’s sister-cities programs, trade commissions, and friendship associations.
One example of how the United Front system impacts America’s higher education and academic freedom is the case of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the CSSA. When the Chinese government first allowed its citizens to attend western universities in the late 1970s, the CCP facilitated the establishment of Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) chapters on Western campuses to monitor Chinese students studying abroad and ensure their views remained in line with that of CCP beliefs. Today, the UFWD continues to target CSSAs as subjects of its influence operations, and it has become increasingly brazen in its efforts to suppress intellectual inquiry on Western campuses. CSSA chapters have actively worked to inhibit debate and interactions between Chinese and non-Chinese peers to keep the former from learning new perspectives or attempting to challenge CCP dogma, while PRC diplomatic posts often provide funding and guidance to CSSA chapters, even encouraging members to disrupt lectures or events on campus that question CCP ideology or positions.
In response, the bipartisan congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released a detailed report in 2018 that urged the U.S. government to better understand Beijing’s United Front strategy, its goals, and the actors responsible for achieving them in order to formulate an effective and comprehensive response.
Beijing’s reach is growing through the world’s increased dependence on technology. Chinese-owned technology companies pose grave threats to U.S. national security, intellectual property, human rights, and global economic independence and security. 5G telecommunications equipment, software, and services of companies such as Huawei, ZTE, and Tencent present worldwide security concerns due to their intrinsic ties to the CCP and potential for misuse. WeChat and TikTok, two popular apps with hundreds of millions of users around the globe, are both subject to CCP monitoring and censorship; users in the United States and elsewhere who post criticism of Chinese authorities in these apps, such as support for protestors in Hong Kong, suffer negative consequences including loss of service.
In response, the State Department in August 2020 launched the Clean Network initiative to build a coalition of like-minded allies and partners committed to safeguarding citizens’ privacy and companies’ sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors. Further, President Donald J. Trump issued executive orders in August 2020 addressing the threats posed by TikTok and WeChat.
Video | Protecting Americans’ Data From the CCP
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To maintain access to the lucrative Chinese market, U.S. moviemakers must self-censor and avoid accurately depicting the CCP as an authoritarian regime that represses its own citizens. In 1997, when Columbia TriStar produced “Seven Years in Tibet,” the PRC government placed a five-year ban on the production company and banned stars Brad Pitt and David Thewlis from entering China. Since then, the PRC government rarely has been portrayed as an antagonist in Hollywood movies.
Chinese funding of U.S. films also influences Hollywood scripts. When the CCP-controlled Global Times expressed criticism that the villains of the 2012 remake of “Red Dawn” were Chinese, the flags of the invading force were changed to North Korean. Despite this capitulation, the film was ultimately not cleared for release by the Chinese. Similarly, in the 1986 film “Top Gun,” Tom Cruise’s character wore a bomber jacket with a patch depicting the flags of Japan and Taiwan. But in the sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” the patch has been removed at the apparent request of Chinese tech giant Tencent, whose subsidiary Tencent Pictures is a co-producer and co-distributor with Paramount. The new live action film “Mulan” even thanks public security and propaganda organs from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for helping with the production of the movie, despite the involvement of those entities in the ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.
In response, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in July 2020, “I suspect Walt Disney would be disheartened to see how the company he founded deals with the foreign dictatorships of our day.”
The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials.Mike Pence