While China often accuses the U.S. of interference in its internal affairs, most recently with Chinese claims of American assistance and encouragement to the Hong Kong protesters, the reverse scenario is at least as plausible warn AEI’s Zack Cooper and Laura Rosenberger in an op-ed published in the Washington Post. That includes a real threat of Chinese meddling in the U.S. 2020 presidential elections as well as other kinds of political interference.
China already has plenty of expertise in monitoring and influencing speech online with its own population, and multinational tech platforms provide a convenient route to weaponize and export these practices through social media and other means, Cooper and Rosenberger write.
In fact there is already plenty of evidence of China’s foreign influence operations: “The Chinese security apparatus is deeply experienced in restricting speech online, starting inside its own borders and with its own platforms. Western tech companies have now confirmed that the Chinese government is also engaged in an effort to manipulate the information space outside its Great Firewall, from Hong Kong to Melbourne to Vancouver.”
These capabilities are already on display in Hong Kong, according to evidence provided by social media companies: “The first public evidence of this campaign was confirmed several weeks ago when Twitter, Facebook and Google’s YouTube disabled more than one thousand accounts linked to Chinese state-backed information operations. According to the companies, these accounts are operating in a ‘coordinated manner’ and ‘deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong.'”
China isn’t the only bad actor, of course: Cooper and Rosenberger also warn that evidence has been uncovered of social media influence operations by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Myanmar.