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Aug. 22, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

China's secret propaganda rules revealed
The ruling Communist Party of China issued internal guidelines recently mandating that state-run propaganda outlets avoid any positive reports on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The guidelines are dated June 12 and were put out by the Chinese national security commission, the high-level party group headed by President Xi Jinping.

“Forbid any positive reports on the Hong Kong people’s appeals for democracy and freedom,” the guidelines state. “Take full advantage of the government’s right to speak to lead public opinion.”

State media also are directed to report on protests using what are termed the “three conflicts.” Those propaganda themes call for making the protests a battle between “patriotism” and Hong Kong independence, a contrast between “peace and violence,” and a conflict between the Chinese “legal system” and those fomenting riots.

“Moderately report on some of the people’s appeals, but only touch on the issue lightly without any highlights,” the guidelines state. “It is permissible to turn the political incident into an economic incident to a certain degree. However, ultimately, it will be defined as a criminal incident.”

The propaganda organs include official and unofficial news outlets such as the party’s People’s Daily newspaper and all offshoots and the multiple state-run television channels of China Central Television. The propaganda order calls for minimizing the total number of protesters who turn out and downplaying the wide popular support in Hong Kong for the protests.

A recent protest was estimated by non-Chinese media to include around 1.7 million people, showing that weeks of protests against Chinese rule show no signs of abating.

Another propaganda theme has been to overemphasize support for the Hong Kong government and its police forces, which have been turned out in large numbers to suppress the protests.

China also wants to classify various social groups in distinct categories: those not protesting as a “silent majority” and the protesters as “young, ignorant and manipulated.”

“They are tools used by enemy Western forces,” the guidelines say.

The propaganda directive also calls for labeling the protesters as terrorists — a theme already widely reported in recent weeks by official Chinese media.

Media are directed to highlight Western flags used in protests in print, photographic and televised reports to promote the propaganda that the Hong Kong activists are backed by the CIA.

“At the same time, as much as possible try not to leak any slogans on democracy and freedom in the footage and photos used in our reports,” the guidelines say.

Noting growing support for the democracy protesters among foreign politicians, the directive states, “This is exactly what we want, and we should emphasize these reports, which fully illustrate how the hostile forces from the West are trying to disrupt the situation and create chaos.”

Chinese media also are blocking all reports that would show “people voicing their support of the protesters or saying they understand the protesters.”

And excessive force used against the protesters by police “must be blocked and deleted.”

“It is absolutely forbidden to circulate such within WeChat, Weibo, or any type of social media,” the directive says.

The propaganda organs also are called on to use foreign supporters and fellow travelers.

“Fully utilize the economic attractions of the mainland market to persuade the patriotic businessmen in the mainland and the patriotic entertainment celebrities to stand up and speak out their support for the government and police,” the notice says. “Firmly control the supervision on traditional media and banning on social media, in order to strongly direct public opinion.”

The directive was first reported by Guo Media, the online U.S. outlet led by dissident Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.

Twitter this week announced it had uncovered 936 Chinese accounts that were part of “a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong” aimed at undermining the protests. The accounts were suspended.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, this week warned that China’s military is seeking to use data and information in future warfare.

Gen. Ashely, speaking at a DIA conference in Tampa, Florida, said the outlines of China’s information warfare are contained in a recent defense white paper published by the Chinese government.

The Chinese “understand that the ability to leverage data is part of what it means to be a great power,” the three-star general said.

“And information is how China plans to dominate in the future,” he said. “That is their strategy to get behind decision advantage.”

“Decision advantage” is the intelligence buzz phrase for providing the best intelligence at the fastest speed to assist war fighters and other leaders.

The July white paper, “China’s National Defense in the New Era,” emphasizes the building of a high-tech military through “informationization” — China’s word for advanced war fighting techniques.

“War is evolving in form towards informationized warfare, and intelligent warfare is on the horizon,” the paper said.

China is seeking to implement a new round of technological and industrial revolution for its military that includes the application of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum information, big data, cloud computing and the “internet of things.”

“There is a prevailing trend to develop long-range precision, intelligent, stealthy or unmanned weaponry and equipment,” the paper says, adding that the Chinese military needs to rapidly advance in the area of high-technology and information-based warfare.

The goal is to create an “intelligent military.”

Retired Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas, former commander of the Special Operations Command, said the U.S. military is working to address China’s asymmetric military strategy. Gen. Thomas said during a security conference in Colorado last month that as recently as three years ago U.S. national policy “specifically declared [China] not an adversary.”

“In relatively short time, we’ve flipped this to [China] seems pretty adversarial. It’s been baked into our national security strategy now, our national defense strategy,” he said.

The United States, he added, is aggressively competing with China economically and the military is keeping a close watch on China’s buildup as well.

China’s strategic initiatives are more coherent than those of the United States. “They have a very coherent approach to campaign design, a futuristic goal, and that’s probably the cause of most of the anxiety,” Gen. Thomas said.

“They’re moving out very coherently and with two huge advantages: resourcing — gads of money — and a data advantage right now that we can’t even imagine. They are hoarding data and getting reps on data to a level that is unimaginable even to some of our major companies.”

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security has imposed sanctions on four Chinese nuclear companies for diverting American technology to Beijing’s nuclear buildup.

The legal notice suggests that U.S.-origin nuclear reactor technology and material have been used to build up Chinese nuclear forces, which are part of a major rapid expansion.

The bureau stated in a Federal Register notice Aug. 14 that the four nuclear entities were added to the blacklist of foreign companies that must first obtain an export license before acquiring U.S. goods and that the license requirement will be based on “a presumption of denial.” The notice said the companies “pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The companies were the China General Nuclear Power Group, China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGNPC), China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute Co. Ltd., and Suzhou Nuclear Power Research Institute Co. Ltd.

The four firms were engaged in or enabled efforts to acquire U.S. nuclear technology and material “for diversion to military uses in China.”

In 2017, an American born in Taiwan, Szuhsiung Ho, was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in setting up a group of American nuclear experts who helped China develop nuclear materials. Court papers in the case identified the CGNPC, Beijing’s largest nuclear producer, as a company seeking to obtain U.S. design information for nuclear reactors.

The Trump administration announced last year that it is seeking to prevent China from using American technology for floating nuclear power reactors in the disputed South China Sea. China has built some 3,200 acres of islands and last year deployed anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles on the islands along with electronic jamming gear.

The crackdown on Chinese nuclear firms is in sharp contrast to Obama administration policies that sought to facilitate deals between U.S. nuclear power companies and Chinese firms.

During the Obama administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed a bid by General Electric to export nuclear technology to China in exchange for promises that China would not steal or transfer the technology. Under the terms of a 2003 agreement on nuclear technology cooperation, China agreed not to divert U.S. know-how.

A Hong Kong company, Corad Technology Ltd., was also sanctioned for acting as a front for illicit transfers of U.S. technology.

Corad was involved, according to the notice, in “the sale of U.S. technology to Iran’s military and space programs, to front companies of [North Korea], and to subordinate entities of China’s government and its defense industry.”

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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