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China’s Manipulation of Opinion: International Cooperation Needed to Prevent Spread of Disinformation

China is strengthening its manipulation of public opinion overseas, including the spread of disinformation, in order to create an international environment favorable to itself. Japan, the United States and Europe should work together to maintain a free and open international order.

The Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping is placing the highest priority on Taiwan as a target for the manipulation of public opinion. This is probably because it is necessary to cultivate public opinion in favor of China in order to achieve Beijing’s long-cherished goal of China-Taiwan unification.

Senior Taiwan officials have warned that China may interfere in the presidential election to be held next January by, for example, getting involved in opinion surveys in Taiwan.

China is already spreading groundless information to Taiwan society such as that the U.S. military will not come to aid Taiwan in the event of a contingency. China likely is aiming for the opposition Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), which takes a conciliatory approach toward China, to regain power.

China has also been manipulating public opinion in Japan. In regard to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s discharge of water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the sea, the Chinese attempt to undermine Japan by claiming that the Pacific Ocean is being used as “Japan’s private sewer” into which Japan is releasing “nuclear-contaminated water” is just one example.

Japan has been actively communicating the safety of the treated water based on scientific evidence. There is no international movement spreading in agreement with China. This certainly indicates the importance of conveying correct information.

With regard to the treated water, the Chinese media’s criticism of Japan has been waning. It is likely that the Chinese media has recognized that repeating falsehoods will only make their own country stand out in the world as different from the rest of it.

The U.S. State Department has released its first report on China’s information warfare. It noted that China is spending billions of dollars a year in a propaganda war to disseminate information favorable to itself on issues such as Taiwan, human rights and the South China Sea.

This trend is particularly noticeable in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. It is probably trying to expand its influence in the so-called Global South of emerging and developing countries in its struggle to gain supremacy over the United States.

It is said that 1,700 foreign news organizations and media groups mainly in developing countries are provided free of charge with video and other materials from Chinese state-run TV — content that is often broadcast without explicitly stating that it was produced by the Chinese side.

There are concerns that citizens of Global South countries will watch such broadcast materials without realizing that they contain propaganda by China, and that China’s claims will spread.

To deal with China’s information warfare, it is essential for countries that share democratic values, such as Japan, the United States and those in Europe, to cooperate and share domestic cases of public opinion manipulation and countermeasures.

It is important to inform emerging and developing countries of China’s intention to manipulate information and warn them to be more vigilant against such disinformation.

Source: The Japan News