China’s Malignant Influence Triggers International Caution

Release Date : 2023-11-10

With the 2024 presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, as well as the general elections in major countries, the international community and our neighboring countries are on high alert for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s usual tactic of malign influence operations to intervene in the aforementioned elections. Not only did the Voice of America, the largest and oldest state-run international broadcaster in the US, publish a special Chinese article on “100 day countdown to presidential election Taiwan National Security Bureau exposes CCP’s election intervention tactics” on October 5th 2023, but on the 9th of the same month, France’s state-run Radio France Internationale also published a Chinese article “Chinese Communist Party intervenes in election with increasingly diversified tactics, Taiwanese authorities are cautious of cognitive warfare, AI and deep-fake technology.” As such, it can be seen that the CCP often use “influence and interference” in other countries’ elections, which from the viewpoint of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)’s Foreign Malign Influence Center, are malign influence operations.

On October 16th, Lee Beulchan, the Beijing correspondent for Chosun Daily, one of the three major Korean newspapers, published an article “CCP may manipulate public opinion polls to interfere with Taiwan’s politician in Taiwan under the orders of the CCP have been indicted.” The article not only points out that “Taiwan is going to hold a presidential election in January 2024, and there are increasing concerns about the CCP’s intervention in the election”, but also quotes National Security Bureau Chief Tsai Ming-yen at his Legislative Yuan report on October 4th, saying that “the CCP’s ways of interfering with the election are very diversified”, and “may use military threats such as landing drills (on Taiwan) by military planes and warships, as well as economic coercion and trade barriers.” “The CCP may also spread fake news and try to threaten voters by creating a ‘war and peace’ dichotomy in the election.” “The National Security Bureau has uncovered and notified the Executive Yuan of more than 1,700 cases of the CCP producing fake news. “And emphasizes on the possibility of public opinion poll manipulations by the CCP.” As such, the CCP’s intervention in Taiwan’s elections has not only aroused great concern in the US, Europe, and other neighboring countries, but has also raised doubts about the spillover effect of CCP’s malign influences on its neighborsNowadays, the CCP’s interference or intervention in other countries’ elections through its influence-expanding actions is obviously not an overnight phenomenon. Not only does it deviate from people’s life experience and democratic participation, but it also exposes the inconsistency between the CCP’s proclaimed concept of ‘common destiny of mankind’ as well as the “Global Security Initiative”, “Global Development Initiative”, “Global Civilisation Initiative” (the “Three Global Initiatives”).

CCP’s malign influence has been likened to a “Digital Opium.” Common discourse include: information manipulation using local collaborators; satirizing the negative image of Western democratic governance as incompetent, corrupt and betraying the people; portraying the Western allies as divided and abandoning Taiwan, and not strong enough to compete with China; the US as the largest exporter of wars in the world, and the root cause of global chaos; and negative images of the US as a country of unequal wealth and human rights violations. For example, on October 25, Wu Qian, the spokesman of the CCP Ministry of National Defense, claimed that “the US is addicted to war, and it has not fought a war for only 26 years out of the more than 240 years since its founding, and that the US is the source of the fundamental chaos in the international order”. In contrast, the CCP has made every effort to promote the “positive impression” that its mode of governance is superior to that of the West, and that the CCP is economically and militarily powerful. It is clear that the CCP’s intention is to strengthen its political, military and economic influence, as well as to expand its overall national security objectives. To the global community, the CCP not only seeks to expand its influence by inciting doubts about US leadership and undermining democratic practices, but also to expand its influence, especially in East Asia and the Western Pacific region. Thus, the CCP’s external actions continue to be characterized by a paradoxical view of struggle as a means of deflecting from its own internal contradictions. However, its manipulation of malicious influence, either overtly or covertly, has impacted the internal political and economic situation in other countries, as well as normal international relations.

On September 28, the Global Engagement Center of the US Department of State released a special report on “How the People’s Republic of China Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment,” which points out that the CCP is spending billions of dollars to engage in “foreign information manipulation,” including the use of propaganda, disinformation, and content censorship to promote positive news about the CCP. The key elements of CCP’s strategy of spreading disinformation globally are: the use of propaganda and censorship, the promotion of digital authoritarianism, the use of international organizations and bilateral partnerships, the combination of coercion and pressure, and the control of the Chinese language media. Specific examples include the CCP’s frequent use of online and offline intimidation to suppress dissent and encourage self-censorship on issues it deems sensitive, as well as its heavy-handed policing of corporations, organizations, and individuals who challenge its official discourse on human rights issues such as those in Taiwan and Xinjiang. In addition, the CCP censors and harasses individual content creators on WeChat, a popular messaging app used by Chinese speaking communities outside China. In addition, the data collected by Chinese companies has enabled the CCP to conduct specific surveillance.

It is clear that the international community and our neighboring countries have become increasingly aware of the CCP’s malign influence. It is worth noting that the CCP is now seeking ways to create an emerging digital authoritarian society and export its digital surveillance and information dissemination control tactics to the world’s developing countries. If the international community gradually adopts these tactics, it will become more and more receptive to the CCP’s official propaganda, disinformation, and censorship.

       (Huang Ciou-long, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Public Security, Central Police University)


(Translated to English by Chen Cheng-Yi)