Kaleidoscope of the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Tactics
(Minghui.org) During a national publicity conference in August 2013, Xi Jinping, who had been elected top leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) five months prior, issued a directive for government agencies and government-controlled news media: “Tell good stories about China and tell them well.”
Xi's propaganda policy was not new but a summary of what the CCP has been doing since it came to power in 1949. His order served to ramp up the CCP's propaganda machine in its attempt to control the narrative both domestically and internationally.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is a perfect example of how the CCP's propaganda machine has been hard at work to “tell good stories about China.” From Chinese diplomats and foreign ministry officials to health agencies, and from every level of governments to the internet army, they are all instructed to portray the CCP as a hero in fighting the virus and the savior of the Chinese people and the rest of the world. Divergent voices were silenced, and information about the coronavirus outbreak was tightly controlled, resulting in over 5 million people in nearly 200 nations becoming infected and over 325,000 dying from the disease caused by the virus.
Below are several of the CCP's propaganda tactics.
Twitter Diplomacy: Self-aggrandizing and Blaming Others
An article from Radio Free Asia on April 28, 2020, reviewed three Twitter accounts over the past 100 days, including Hua Chunying (@SpokespersonCHN), Zhao Lijian (@zlj517), and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (@MFA_China). Hua is the director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department, and Zhao is her deputy director.
A total of 4,574 tweets were posted from the three accounts between January 1 and April 10.
In January and February, the tweets mostly praised the CCP's success in combating the coronavirus and exuding “positive energy” (a slogan proposed by the CCP leadership since 2014), but there was no information about the ever-increasing confirmed cases.
Since February 20, these tweets changed from depicting China as an outbreak area to bragging about itself as the savior of the world. They also started pushing another of the CCP's slogans, namely, “A Community of Shared Future for Mankind,” and calling for increased global cooperation and collaboration.
On March 12, one day after the WHO declared the coronavirus pandemic, Zhao tweeted that, “It might be the US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”
Nearly 80% of the tweets posted by the three Twitter accounts were critical of the U.S.
Fake text messages popped up on millions of Americans’ cellphone screens and social media feeds in March, claiming that U.S. President Trump would lock down the entire country, according to an article in the New York Times on April 22 titled “Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say.” The article noted that the fake messages cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security and were so widely circulated that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement to refute the messages,
The CCP has a long history of pushing its views on the world, which has intensified during the pandemic. “In a highly coordinated campaign, Chinese officials and institutions have spread talking points centered on two narratives: that the United States is to blame for the origins of the virus and that the Communist Party has successfully contained the virus after a hard-fought campaign, affirming the superiority of its system,” reported another New York Times article on March 28 titled “As Virus Spreads, China and Russia See Openings for Disinformation.”
The people of Wuhan should be thankful, wrote the city’s Party secretary on March 7, “[We] must through various channels carry out gratitude education among the citizens of the whole city as well as cadres so that they thank the general secretary [Xi Jinping], thank the communist party, listen to the party’s words, follow the party’s way, and create strong positive energy,” reported The Guardian on March 9 in an article titled “’Gratitude education’: Wuhan boss faces backlash over calls to thank leaders.”
These are not isolated communications by a few CCP officials, and in fact, Chinese diplomats overseas have attempted similar tactics. Roger Roth, president of the Wisconsin Senate, received emails in late February from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago urging him to pass legislation praising China’s response to the coronavirus with a proposed draft resolution attached, reported The Hill on April 21, in an article titled “Why China will be the biggest COVID-19 loser.”
The CCP's ploy backfired, however. The outraged senator drafted and passed a State Senate resolution proclaiming that the “Wisconsin Senate stands in solidarity with the Chinese people, condemning the actions of the Communist Party of China in the strongest possible terms,” wrote the report.
Chinese diplomats also approached German government officials trying to get them to issue positive statements about the CCP's handling of the coronavirus. “The federal government has not complied with these requests,” stated the German interior ministry according to a Reuters report on April 26, “It is about justice, and there is no need to seek praise,” the ministry said.
Hoarding Medical Supplies and Selling Itself as a Savior
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report on May 1 noted China’s abnormal trade behavior in purchasing large quantities of medical supplies starting in January, reported the Associated Press on May 4 in an article titled “DHS report: China hid virus’ severity to hoard supplies.” The article noted that after ramping up production of medical supplies, China then sold the supplies to other countries facing shortages, claiming itself to be a world savior.
The China-made medical supplies, though, were often faulty or of low quality. “Some 80 percent of the masks the Czech Republic purchased from China for around $600,000 are defective. Chinese rapid-testing kits sold to Spain had only 30 percent sensitivity, as opposed to the 80 percent level expected,” wrote Charles Dunst from the London-based Think Thank LSE IDEAS in The American Interest, “The Netherlands has since recalled 600,000 defective masks it purchased from China. Turkey recently rejected an unknown number of Chinese testing kits after they yielded inaccurate results. Georgia suspended its agreement with a Chinese company after receiving 1,000 substandard rapid-testing kits.”
Similar failures are were also observed in Beijing’s gifts. After China donated 100,000 test kits to the Philippines, they were soon discarded since they were only 40 percent accurate, reported the American Interest article on April 15.
The Australian government pressed the CCP on April 19 for transparency over the coronavirus issue. “The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that," said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in an interview with ABC television on April 19, “In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that.”
In response, the CCP threatened to impose tariffs of up to 80 percent on Australian barley and has suspended Australian beef imports.
Such a reaction was not an isolated event. “Beijing’s envoy in Paris promised a fight with France should China’s interests be threatened, then engaged in a public spat with his host country over the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka boasted of China’s handling of the pandemic to an activist on Twitter who had fewer than 30 followers. Beijing canceled a nationwide tour by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra after a tussle with the city’s mayor over Taiwan,” stated a Wall Street Journal article on May 19 titled “China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ Diplomats Are Ready to Fight.”
“As China asserts itself globally, its diplomats around the world are taking on foes big and small,” the article continued, referring to this style of “Wolf Warrior,” named after a popular Chinese movie.
This has drawn a clear contrast to many American politicians’ view of China. “Governments in the West employed sinologists to interpret the opaque signals emanating from China's politburo. Under its former leader, Deng Xiaoping, the country's declared strategy was to ‘hide its ability and bide its time. Well, not any more,” wrote an article in BBC on May 13 titled “Coronavirus: China’s new army of tough-talking diplomats.”
Throughout the past few decades, the CCP has been ruling China with violence, deceit and lies, as seen from its numerous political campaigns, including the Great Leap Forward (1958), the Great Famine (1959-1961), the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Tiananmen Massacre (1989), and the persecution of Falun Gong (since 1999).
With each political movement, the CCP has learned to adapt and survive, only to become even more ferocious in its attempt to control China and dominate the rest of the world. As it expands its influence, the CCP has also been exporting its harm to the world, as the global pandemic attests. It is probably time to practice social and economic distancing from China to chart a safe path forward.