China Daily

CIA the wellspring of disinformation

According to a Reuters report on Friday, in 2019, the Central Intelligence Agency was authorized by then US president Donald Trump to launch a clandestine campaign on Chinese social media aimed at turning public opinion in China against the Communist Party of China.

CIA spokesperson Chelsea Robinson declined to comment on the existence of the program, its goals or impacts. Kate Waters, a spokesperson for the Joe Biden administration’s National Security Council, also declined to comment on the program and whether it is still active. But the report was based on several anonymous former officials “with direct knowledge of the highly classified operation”. And as Reuters’ interviews with “two intelligence historians” indicate, when the White House grants the CIA covert action authority, through an order known as a presidential finding, it often remains in place across administrations.

The track record of the United States using such programs to win the Cold War and pave the way for “color revolutions” around the world over the past decades gives credence to the report. And the reaction to the report, not just from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, but also some US analysts, as well as third-party observers from other countries, interviewed by Reuters, indicate they all consider the report to be true.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that the report shows “the US has spread China-related disinformation in an organized and well-planned way for a long time and it’s America’s important approach to wage a battle of perception against China”. Wang also referred to the comment by US Republican Senator Rand Paul, who once said that the US government is the biggest propagator of disinformation, and CIA Director William Burns’ recent remarks that the CIA has committed substantially more resources toward China-related intelligence collection.

The CIA founded a new China Mission Center in 2021 after the Biden administration identified China as being the No 1 challenge to the US. And the CIA, according to a report of The Wall Street Journal in December last year, is trying to boost its human spy capacities at the agency and its sister spy agencies in China as a part of a massive shift of focus from terrorism to China.

The report by Reuters indicates that the US has been not only spreading disinformation about China’s ruling party, but also seeking to “foment paranoia among top leaders there” so the country expends resources “chasing intrusions” into its political network in a bid to cause larger internal strife. As one of the former officials told Reuters: “We wanted them chasing ghosts.” The interviewees also said the CIA program involved action in countries where the United States and China are competing for influence, targeting public opinion in Southeast Asia, Africa and the South Pacific.

The US often accuses other countries of spreading disinformation, but as the Reuters report shows it is the US that is the true breeding ground of disinformation. The response of some China hawks to the exposure of the covert propaganda program is a telling sign of the US’ shamelessness. Their only concern is that Beijing may take advantage of the report to “proselytize” in a developing world already deeply suspicious of Washington.

Beijing has no need to do that. The US is already alienating itself from the rest of the international community with its actions. Long before the Reuters report appeared, countries around the world knew the sort of nefarious activities the CIA gets up to. Many countries have firsthand experience of the chaos and suffering its troublemaking can cause. If the US side really recognizes the importance of Sino-US relations and intends to manage the risks and uncertainties in a responsible way as it has claimed, it should refrain from these say-one-thing-do-another tricks, and engage with China with reciprocal earnestness and in good faith.

Editorial, China Daily

Categories China Daily Opinion