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China’s Campaign to Shape Global Opinion


Published January 31, 2022

Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are eager to use propaganda and covert tactics to manipulate international opinion. Even within China, President Xi Jinping has silenced independent voices by creating a culture of restriction and submission. Monitoring China’s propaganda capabilities is critical to detecting and mitigating state-sponsored disinformation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is China’s dishonest narrative dangerous?
  2. How has China suppressed free speech within its borders?

Additional Resources:

  • Read “Telling China’s Story: The Chinese Communist Party’s Campaign to Shape Global Narratives,” by Glenn Tiffert, Renée DiResta, Carly Miller, Vanessa Molter, and John Pomfret. Available here.
  • Read “The Authoritarian Assault on Knowledge,” by Glenn Tiffert in the Journal of Democracy, via Project MUSE. Available here.
  • Watch “Changing the Narrative between America and China” on PolicyEd. Available here.
View Transcript

The Chinese Communist Party combines overt propaganda and covert tactics to manipulate information and promote its preferred narratives both at home and abroad.

Party leaders are eager to shape international opinion. They regularly communicate to an international audience on popular global social networks like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter – networks they block within China. They project positive images of China to the rest of the world, minimize negative coverage about sensitive issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong, or COVID-19, and  mobilize actors abroad to amplify those interventions.

At home, the party’s control is more overt and intensive. In 2016, China’s president Xi Jinping forced editors and reporters at the three largest state-run media companies to pledge absolute loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

And internet regulators have blocked a growing list of foreign news and social media websites. They have mandated real-name registration across a wide array of domestic online platforms, including Weibo and WeChat, to make it easier to interrogate, arrest, and prosecute people for expressing their political views. Independent voices have increasingly gone silent.

China’s potential to refine and increase its capabilities remains of significant concern to liberal democracies. Monitoring China as it increases its propaganda capabilities is critical in detecting and mitigating state-sponsored disinformation coming from overseas, and ensuring the integrity of the information that policymakers and the public depend upon.