‘If All You Had Was One Source of News’: Chris Fenton on Beijing’s Information Warfare

Tiffany Meier
By Tiffany Meier
October 16, 2021China in Focus

In this special episode, we sat down with two guests: Chris Fenton, a U.S.–China expert and author of “Feeding the Dragon,” and journalist John Mac Ghlionn, who’s lived and worked in China.

They touch on Beijing’s soft power tactics, such as through information warfare and Hollywood, and what that means going forward.

On Beijing’s use of soft power, Fenton said, “It’s very subtle, but part of it has to do with just simply things that the Chinese government doesn’t want anybody globally talking about—whether it’s Tibet or Tiananmen Square, or Taiwan being a separate country, or what’s going on in Xinjiang Province with the Uyghurs or any other sort of human rights issues. They are very clear that businesses, whether they want products or services into that massive market, need to adhere to the things that are considered third rail issues. And we saw the NBA walk right into that in October 2019, with the GM of the Houston Rockets showcased—just in seven words on Twitter—his support for the Hong Kong protesters. NBA was immediately shut out of that market.”

Another area is cyber. Mac Ghlionn said, “China is testing the water more and more and more, and it’s upping its cyber capabilities. This is the deeply worrying thing for me, is that the progress that the CCP seems to be making with its cyber capabilities” He went on to say that another danger area is “China’s quantum capabilities. And we’re on the verge, it seems. But clearly, you have to take everything that comes out of China with a generous helping of salt, or maybe a few buckets of salt. But it does seem that their capabilities … say with quantum computing, or even a future quantum internet, if they do succeed in creating this, it will be virtually unhackable. And if they advance their quantum capabilities, you have the potential of maybe hacking into the U.S. power grid and taking down whole cities. They’re talking about we’re so fixated on ransomware attacks now that the next big thing is killware, where essentially, you tap into water reservoirs, can poison it from distance. This is what we’re talking about now. You think of 9/11—and 9/11 was clearly horrible, catastrophic—what the potentials of, the possibilities going forward with cyber and the likes of killware could be many, many times worse than 9/11, or 9/11 in different cities across the U.S. And this is not hyperbole. This is a possibility, a very real one, too.”

Fenton noted this kind of information warfare is used inside China. He said, “Remember, the Chinese Communist Party needs to keep 1.4 billion people just happy enough that they don’t revolt. And June 4, 1989, is in the memories of the government. Maybe not in the people because a lot of people don’t even remember it or know about it. But in the government, it’s there and it doesn’t take much to create that type of wedge between the people and its government. So they need to create the narrative that they’re doing everything the right way for them and compare their nation to other nations in ways that showcase that other nations aren’t running their countries well. Jan. 6 is a perfect example. What was happening here in Washington, D.C., was played and broadcast nonstop on the ground in China so that the Chinese people could see, ‘Oh, democracy is really dirty and messy and violent. What we have is not.’ And then on top of that, you have that narrative, that soft power influence over the people.”

Watch the full report on EpochTV.

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