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April 4, 2022

ChiCom Army of Social Media Influencers

Beijing is using social media apps like TikTok not only to spy on Americans but to influence their perspective of China and the U.S.

Why is China more often viewed by the American public as less of a dangerous foe than Russia? Thanks to Vladimir Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine, it’s not hard to understand why. But even prior to the war, the Kremlin as opposed to the Zhongnanhai was seen as the bigger problem. Yet when it comes to global power and influence, as well as a dismal record on human rights — not to mention being responsible for unleashing a global pandemic — China clearly outpaces Russia as the more dangerous nation.

Like Russia, China has acted aggressively toward minority groups within its borders. Look no further than the genocide Beijing has meted out against its population of Uyghur Muslims. Similar to Russia’s actions in Crimea, China took over the semiautonomous region of Hong Kong after Beijing had promised it free elections and a free press. And now Xi Jinping has his eyes on Taiwan. In short, embracing the false notion that Red China is “not that bad” is to ignore reality.

The question is, how has China accomplished this feat of appearing as one of the “good” and “progressive” nations when it is anything but? The short answer is money, and lots of it. But it’s how Beijing has been spending that money that matters most.

After having developed significant business ties with big corporations in America, and specifically within Big Tech, Beijing has taken the technological knowledge it has gained through these relationships to develop systems designed to spy on users. The popular Chinese-owned TikTok app is a primary example, which is why Donald Trump attempted to ban it from the U.S.

But China is also employing an army of social media influencers who carefully work to promulgate Beijing’s propaganda.

Former FBI agent Clint Watts is the president of Miburo, a company that tracks disinformation campaigns. He explains the problem: “You can see how [these Chinese influencers are] trying to infiltrate every one of these countries. It is just about volume, ultimately. If you just bombard an audience for long enough with the same narratives people will tend to believe them over time.”

It’s the classic observation about lying — if you repeat it long enough, people will believe the lie.

Chinese or Chinese-paid social media influences set up shop on all the major social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. They present themselves like any other social media influencer: as individuals who seek to accumulate a lot of followers through rather innocuous videos featuring themselves on various adventures. However, woven within these accounts, these influencers work in Beijing’s positive talking points about China. As Jessica Brandt, a foreign interference and disinformation expert from the Brookings Institution, observes, “They want to promote a positive vision of China to drown out their human rights records.”

Always beware of who you follow, the information given, and the agenda promoted. Of course, our Patriot Post readers are doing just that, but millions of unwitting teens might not be so discerning.

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