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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

US says China’s ‘global information manipulation’ threatens freedoms

China is spending billions of dollars a year to shape perceptions of China through influence, censorship and disinformation in a large-scale campaign that could threaten global freedoms, the United States has said.

“Beijing has invested billions of dollars to construct a global information ecosystem that promotes its propaganda and facilitates censorship and the spread of disinformation,” the State Department spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday following the publication of the Global Engagement Center’s report.

The report noted that Beijing used a number of “deceptive and coercive methods” to try and influence the international information environment and “bend the global information environment to its advantage”.

“Unchecked, the PRC’s efforts will reshape the global information landscape, creating biases and gaps that could even lead nations to make decisions that subordinate their economic and security interests to Beijing’s,” the report warned, referring to the country by the initials of its official name, People’s Republic of China.

In recent years, Beijing has stepped up its influence campaigns on social media platforms such as X (formerly Twitter) and YouTube, particularly over hot-button issues such as Xinjiang, the South China Sea and Taiwan, while its state media has set up editorial partnerships with traditional and online media elsewhere in the world, sometimes even buying control of outlets.

The US report identified five main elements of China’s global media strategy: leveraging propaganda and censorship, promoting digital authoritarianism, exploiting international organisations and bilateral partnerships, pairing co-optation and pressure, and exercising control over Chinese-language media.

Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own, has long been on the front line of China’s media war.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Al Jazeera earlier this month that Taipei was preparing for Beijing to step up its misinformation and disinformation campaigns ahead of the presidential elections in January.

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