State Department Report: China, Russia, Iran Launch Disinformation Campaign, Blame US for Wuhan Flu

Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their talks on the sideline of the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.The BRICS Summit, gathering the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will take place in Brasilia Nov. 13-14. (Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

 

According to POLITICO, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) has issued a new report warning that China, Russia and Iran have launched a propaganda and disinformation campaign against the United States. The report is not public, but has been reviewed by POLITICO.

Naturally, they are trying to promote the narrative that the Chinese virus is actually an American bioweapon brought to Wuhan by U.S. troops. Other messages are that “America’s sanctions are killing Iranians, that China’s response was great while the U.S.’ was negligent, that all three governments are managing the crisis well, and that the U.S. economy can’t bear the toll of the virus.”

The report says that while China, Russia and Iran have coordinated messaging in the past, this activity has accelerated since the start of the pandemic.

The disinformation is sourced from both state-media outlets and the governments themselves, POLITICO explains. For example, Russia’s Defense Ministry has put out a story that Bill Gates played a role in creating the virus.”

Prior to the crisis, there hadn’t been much “overlap” in the messaging of the three governments. However, by February, it “began to converge.” The report says this has “accelerated as those governments have struggled to keep public opinion in their own countries on their side.”

Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, Lea Gabrielle, told POLITICO that China has allowed “Russian propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. spread throughout its country — where the Beijing government’s internet censorship is notoriously relentless.” She said:

What we saw as the health crisis started to come under control in China is that the CCP really started pushing a concerted effort to try to reshape that narrative. So in a short period of time the CCP went from letting Russian disinformation claiming the U.S. was the source of the virus proliferate in Chinese social media, to raising questions on state media about the origin’s source, to promoting disinformation that the U.S. was the source of the virus.

The Chinese government’s messaging is both defensive and offensive.

At the same time, we saw Beijing unleashing a steady drumbeat of pro-PRC content across its global media networks and also from its overseas missions and that included increasingly vocal criticism of how democratic countries were responding to the crisis.

The report discussed a March 10 article in The Global Times, a daily tabloid newspaper controlled by the CCP’s People’s Daily newspaper, which said that China’s “image as a responsible world power has been further strengthened, rather than dented” by the pandemic.

The State report also referenced a story from Iran’s state-media outlet, Tasnim News Agency, which sees its role as “defending the Islamic Revolution against negative media propaganda campaign.” The article “highlighted comments from the country’s top general thanking China for “humanitarian moves” related to the pandemic.”

POLITICO writes that another focus of this propaganda is “Who is helping fight the virus — and who isn’t.” ZVEZDA, a media outlet controlled by Russia’s armed forces ran a story headlined “Bill Gates, a secret laboratory and a conspiracy of pharmaceutical companies: who can benefit from coronavirus.” This article suggests that “Gates had foreknowledge of the virus and claims that only people of “the Mongoloid race” can contract Covid-19.”

Read the whole POLITICO article here.

Fox News ran a story this morning which said that China had seriously upped their “spy game on U.S. soil” since the virus began spreading around the world.

The intelligence sources interviewed for this article made many of the same points highlighted in the State Department report, but also a few new ones.

A retired Pentagon officer told Fox that although China’s espionage operations are in “full swing” trying to control the narrative (to deflect blame from Beijing) of how the pandemic originated, he emphasized that “the Chinese focus inside the U.S. remains centered on technology theft, military readiness and minimizing the blowback.”

The Trump Administration has been making a concerted effort to “root out” Chinese spies who have tried to infiltrate a wide range of industries and American institutions including U.S. media outlets, academia, U.S. defense contractors and the technology industry.

Retired Special Forces Col. James Williamson told Fox:

There is hacking into computer systems, very active human (HUMINT) recruiting of U.S. citizens out of their embassies, consulates, and spies operating under diplomatic cover or non-official cover. They are extremely active against U.S. defense contractors and in and around technology industry hubs. If not the parts themselves, at least critical components of parts, have been used in sensitive U.S. defense technology.

Dan Hoffman, a retired CIA station chief, agreed, telling Fox that, “when it comes to the U.S., Chinese intelligence networks continue to operate at an alarmingly broad level. In terms of its HUMINT reliance in the U.S., Chinese orchestrators often utilize business networking platforms such as LinkedIn to form connections and carefully recruit.”

Alexander Crowther, a strategist and international affairs expert at Florida International University told Fox that “China favors technical intelligence, but there remains a solid human intelligence program, which specifically targets overseas Chinese, whether Chinese citizens or not.” Crowther said:

If they have family back in China, the Chinese government threatens them. If they do not, they appeal to what could be called ‘race loyalty,’ that is because if you are ethnically Chinese, you should automatically be loyal to China; therefore, you should be loyal to the Chinese government. They also recruit American researchers, focusing particularly on universities. Universities are a twofer: Chinese students and faculty as well as underpaid U.S. academics.

Karim Hijazi is the CEO of cyber intelligence and defense firm, Prevailion. Hijazi understands the grave threat that China, if left unchecked, poses to the U.S. He said, “China’s cyber espionage efforts against the U.S. are vast, wide-ranging, extremely aggressive, and highly creative. They will do anything they can to compromise U.S. intelligence, government, and military assets, and the same is true for the private sector. Nothing is off-limits to them.”

For years, the CCP has been spreading its tentacles into every American institution, government agency, industry, university that it can. This pandemic has been a wake-up call for our country. The media is reporting that a Cold War between the U.S. and China has begun. I would argue that it began a long time ago. America is only now realizing how bloody it’s been.