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Thousands of Hong Kong residents congregated, as they were doing on an annual basis, in June 2014 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. A catastrophe which Beijing has been wildly successful in obfuscating. However, to the absolute horror and bewilderment of the protestors, a fair number of dreaded Islamist terrorists had infiltrated the protests in 2014. Or at least Twitter claimed so. One tweet even gave a spectacularly precise description of one of the would-be attackers and his dangerous implements – “five feet ten inches tall, weighing around 154 pounds, wearing a black headband just like us; a knife with jagged edges is protruding from his bag.” Ultimately, neither the tweet nor the one tweeting turned out to be authentic. The twitter handles represented English names followed by an indecipherable sequence of random numbers. Innumerable copycats replicated the same message.
Award winning Taiwanese journalist Bethany Allen, in her meticulously researched book, “Beijing Rules”, lays down how Beijing and the CCP leave no stone unturned in exercising both overt and covert influence over the global populace to further China’s political and military interests.
Social media is a preferred medium for China to purvey its interests. The Anhui Province Culture and Tourism Department awarded contract worth approximately 2-million-yuan contract to the Xinhua News Agency’s News and Information Center to manage the Department’s social media accounts. The appointment came with an attached condition. Xinhua should show an increase the number of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram followers by at least 10 percent by the end of the contract period.
Much of China’s covert influence is exercised by an organisation bearing the unimaginative and prosaic name of United Front Work Department. The United Front exists in relative obscurity within the bowels of the powerful Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But there is nothing that is either reticent or reluctant when it comes to the remit of the United Front. Recruiting non-CCP members to promote China’s interests, the United Front offers luring baits such as payments and political donations to influence. Leaked screenshots published in the Washington Post in 2019 depicted Chinese embassy officials in Ottawa instructing students of Chinese descent to find out information about a talk at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, on rights of Uyghur minorities in China, and to collect data on whether Chinese nationals were involved in organizing the Canadian event. Even celebrities such as Jackie Chan know-tow to the philosophy of the United Front by mouthing platitudes and singing the glories of the CPC, literally. Chan, in fact appears on state sponsored Chinese television singing patriotic songs and ballads such as “Amazing China”.
The tentacles of Chinese surveillance have the world within their vice like grip. As Allen describes with frightening clarity, even the online meeting platform Zoom, had no choice but to be subservient to the interests of Beijing. Asked to train its sights on Chinese dissidents residing in the United States, Zoom handed over invaluable and confidential data such as the IP addresses and locational details of such dissidents to China on a platter!
China then systematically proceeded to disrupt meetings on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. In the words of former student leader Wang Dan, who was one of the people whose meetings were interrupted, “It kind of hurt the democracy in the United States. It’s not only an attack on Chinese dissidents. It’s an attack on American society. Because Zoom is an American company.”
Allen terms the Chinese Government’s pernicious practices, “authoritarian economic statecraft”. Such economic statecraft encompasses within its remit non-state actors such as Chinese spy Christine Fang, who allegedly spread Beijing’s influence by seducing California congressman Eric Swalwell and other politicians.
Beijing Rules – a terrifying insight into the chicanery and manipulative intentions of Xi Jin Ping’s indiscreet China.