CIA covert campaign against China shows 'necessity of counter-espionage efforts'
Published: Mar 15, 2024 07:41 PM
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin Photo:

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin Photo:

A Reuters report on the US' covert influence operations against China and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief's pledge of more China-targeted resources corroborated each other and again demonstrated the US' continuous disinformation campaign and cognitive warfare against China, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at Friday's routine press briefing. 

Reuters revealed in an exclusive report on Thursday that then US president Donald Trump authorized the CIA in 2019 to launch a clandestine campaign on Chinese social media aimed at turning public opinion in China against its government, according to former US officials with direct knowledge of the highly classified operation.

CIA chief William Burns wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine in February that the CIA has "committed substantially more resources toward China-related intelligence collection, operations, and analysis around the world."

"We're hiring and training more Mandarin speakers while stepping up efforts across the world to compete with China, from Latin America to Africa to the Indo-Pacific," Burns wrote. 

Wang said on Friday that the US has been systematically and premeditatedly spreading false information related to China all year round, which has become an important means of cognitive warfare against China. 

Republican Senator Rand Paul once bluntly stated that the US government is "the greatest propagator of disinformation" in the history of the world, Wang said, adding that the US often accuses other countries of spreading false information, but in reality, the US itself is the true source of disinformation. 

Wang stressed that "fabricating and spreading lies will only accelerate the bankruptcy of one's own reputation; spreading disinformation cannot stop China's progress, but will only bring more shame on the US."

According to the Reuters report, three former officials told Reuters that the CIA created a small team of operatives who used bogus internet identities to spread negative narratives about the Chinese government while leaking disparaging intelligence to overseas news outlets.

This enabled the CIA to take action not only in China but also in countries around the world where the US sees China as a competitor. Four former officials said the operation targeted public opinion in Southeast Asia, Africa and the South Pacific, Reuters reported.

Though the incumbent administration declined to comment on the existence of the program or whether it is still active, Reuters, citing intelligence historians, reported that 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.

Tian Wenlin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Friday that the revelation surprises no one, as infiltration and color revolution have long been the US' methods of choice. 

US officials revealed the campaign probably out of political purposes in the run-up to the presidential election, but it rang the alarm for China to be cautious of such operations, Tian said. 

By stirring up opposition and divisions, the ultimate goal of such infiltration is to disrupt social order and poison social morale, forcing values and socioeconomic norms to transform in a negative way, Tian elaborated. 

Reuters reported the CIA's campaign signaled a return to methods that marked Washington's struggle with the former Soviet Union. "The Cold War is back," said Tim Weiner, author of a book on the history of political warfare.

But Tian believes that while the US' color revolution scheme succeeded in the Soviet Union, it cannot win easily in China as "we have recognized such tactics and learned lessons from many predecessors." 

The revelation again demonstrated the necessity and urgency of China's enhanced counter-espionage efforts in recent years and underlined the importance of raising public awareness and cautiousness against infiltration attempts, analysts said.

China has maintained its pace of development and strategic composure amid decades of US infiltration, and the US' petty tricks will not be able to shake our determination and confidence, they said.