The Chinese communist government is using social media as a tool to further their own propaganda all over the world.
Social media has changed the way people access information and because it has made content easy to consume for those with an internet connection, the Chinese communist government is also using it as a tool to spread their own propaganda. It is evident in the way they sponsor "lifestyle vloggers" and internet personalities such as Vica Li, who describes herself as a "food lover" and "life blogger" who enjoys teaching the world about her native China.
According to Charisma News, Li has YouTube and Facebook accounts and even teaches Chinese classes over Zoom. But Li's social media accounts, as any content created and published in China, are controlled by the Chinese communist government. In Li's case, her content is controlled by CGTN, the Chinese-state run TV network where she has regularly appeared in broadcasts and is listed as a digital reporter on the company's website. In fact, despite claiming to have "created all of these channels on her own," her very Facebook account is actually run by at least nine other people.
According to the report, an Associated Press examination found that this is just one way that China is influencing U.S.-owned social media platforms. It added that as China "continues to assert its economic might," it has also "quietly built a network of social media personalities who parrot the government's perspective in posts seen by hundreds of thousands of people, operating in virtual lockstep as they promote China's virtues, deflect international criticism of its human rights abuses and advance Beijing's talking points on world affairs like Russia's war against Ukraine."
Moreover, some reporters from China who are affiliated with the government have positioned themselves as "trendy Instagram influencers." The communist government has also enlisted firms to recruit influencers to deliver their propaganda to social media users. China is even benefiting from Westerners who run YouTube channels and Twitter feeds that echo pro-China narratives.
Miburo, a company that tracks foreign disinformation operations, reported that there are at least 200 influencers connected to the Chinese government or its state media, all of which operate in up to 38 different languages.
"You can see how they're trying to infiltrate every one of these countries," Miburo president Clint Watts, who is a former FBI agent, explained as per the New York Post. "It is just about volume, ultimately. If you just bombard an audience for long enough with the same narratives people will tend to believe them over time."
Such an example of Chinese propaganda is its response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Li Jingjing, who described herself as "journalist" and "traveler," posted a video titled "Ukraine crisis: The West ignores wars & destructions it brings to Middle East," in which, instead of criticizing Russia's unprovoked assault on Ukraine along with the rest of the world, she mocks American journalists for covering the war and claims that it was NATO who provoked Russia's invasion.
Li and Jingjing are only two of the many social media influencers who China has tasked to spread their communist propaganda. Watts said that China has "clearly...identified the 'Chinese lady influencer' is the way to go." The more problematic part is how these social media influencers do not disclose their ties to the Chinese communist government and have "largely phased out references in their posts to their employers, which include CGTN, China Radio International and Xinhua News Agency." This causes social media users who are lured in by scenic photos and cultural insights to be unaware that they will also encounter state-endorsed propaganda.
Jessica Brandt, a Brookings Institution expert on foreign interference and disinformation, had a simple explanation for this: "They want to promote a positive vision of China to drown out their human rights records."