Every day the People’s Republic of China, Russia, other state actors distort the international information environment to their advantage. I believe there’s nothing less than the future integrity of the global information space at risk.” So warned the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center James Rubin at a briefing on a State Department report highlighting the PRC’s attempts to seek information dominance.
The PRC is investing billions of dollars in the effort, using propaganda, censorship, surveillance, and diplomatic pressure, among other tactics, said Special Envoy Rubin.
The report outlines five key elements of the PRC strategy: levering propaganda and censorship, promoting digital authoritarianism, exploiting international organizations and bilateral partnerships, pairing cooptation and pressure, and controlling Chinese language media.
“On issues the Chinese Government deems sensitive, the PRC has employed online and offline intimidation to silence dissent and encourage self-censorship,” said Mr. Rubin.
“It’s also taken measures against corporations that challenge its desired narratives on subjects like Xinjiang and Taiwan. ... As well, Chinese corporations have harvested data that has enabled Beijing to target specific individuals and organizations. ... It’s exported aspects of its digital surveillance state to the rest of the world and propagated information control tactics with a particular focus on developing countries.”
Special Envoy Rubin stressed that every country “has the right … to tell its story to the world, but a nation’s narrative should be based on facts. … The PRC advances through coercive techniques and increasingly outright lies,” he said.
“This is not simply a matter of public narrative but a national security subject. Our values and our interests are in jeopardy. Unchecked, the PRC’s information manipulation could in many parts of the world diminish freedom to express views critical of Beijing. ... The net result of these PRC efforts is to transform the global information landscape and damage the security and stability of the United States, its friends, and partners.”
International awareness is “the starting point,” said Special Envoy Rubin. “What we’ve learned is that there is a dark side to globalization, and if we don’t allow this information manipulation to be stopped, there’s going to be a slow, steady destruction of democratic values and the secure world or rules and rights … that the United States and much of the world relies upon.”