China launches global digital charm offensive


As U.S. soft power declines, China is quickly filling the vacuum by portraying itself as the global advocate for internet security and stability, with many countries adopting aspects of China’s cyber sovereignty model, notes Andrea Little Limbago, the Chief Social Scientist at Endgame. In one year alone, 450 million social media posts — roughly one in six — were fabricated in China. This is part of one of the most impactful global information operations campaigns since the end of the Cold War, but it has largely gone unnoticed, she writes for War On The Rocks:

China has been expanding its information operations campaign globally as well, portraying itself as the protector of internet stability. ….China’s leadership has mastered the art of domestic diversion and is now doing the same thing globally to promote its own model of cyber sovereignty. ….The Chinese model for information security is taking hold globally, with two-thirds of all internet users currently subjected to some degree of censorship of criticism aimed at the government, military, or ruling families. … Chinese authorities have become experts at online diversion. As a recent Harvard study notes, China engages in “astroturfing,” otherwise known as reverse censorship, by “surreptitiously posting large numbers of fabricated social media comments.”

“The United States must reinforce its commitment as a global leader for internet openness and security and work with international partners to establish global rules of the road and protect digital freedoms,” Limbago adds. ‘Absent this leadership, China will fill the vacuum and continue to push its own version of internet stability and control.”


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