‘Mold US Public Discourse’: Intel Community Sounds The Alarm On Chinese Influence Operations In America

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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China will intensify ongoing efforts to mold Americans’ opinions and U.S. policy through covert influence operations, including by harnessing Chinese students and researchers abroad, according to the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat outlook.

Beijing’s goal is to influence U.S. policy to be more favorable to China and hedge out America’s global influence, planting seeds of doubt among citizens regarding leaders in Washington and undermining democracy, the assessment states. Those efforts extend from the highest levels of federal government to individual Americans, and they include mobilizing Chinese foreign exchange students and U.S. universities and think tanks to parrot pro-China content.

Chinese actors “have become more aggressive with their influence campaigns, probably motivated by their view that anti-China sentiment in the United States is threatening their international image, access to markets, and technological expertise,” the report states. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: GOP Reps Target House Members For ‘Collaboration’ With Chinese Intelligence)

China seeks to guide the work produced in major institutions and think tanks, according to the assessment, which serves to advance U.S. policy.

Beijing also keeps a tight rein on Chinese studying overseas, often blackmailing them via threats to cancel visas or harm family members back home, while demanding they “conduct activities on behalf of Beijing,” according to the assessment.

Employing a wide array of “overt, overt, licit and illicit” means, China seeks to control the levers of U.S. politics, the assessment found. It has redoubled efforts to sway local politicians, seeing lower-level officials and lawmakers as easy targets for compromise.

In addition, Chinese leaders probably believe a growing bipartisan consensus in the U.S. of China’s economic, political and diplomatic threat is thwarting its efforts to influence U.S. policy, according to the document.

At a hearing on the preeminent worldwide threats Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said China “benefits most by preventing a spiraling of tensions and by preserving stability in its relationship with the United States,” according to CNN.

The top U.S. intelligence chiefs doubled down on concerns over the popular Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok.

Marco Rubio of Florida, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, warned that TikTok presents “a substantial national security threat for the country of a kind that we didn’t face in the past,” CNN reported.

FBI Director Christopher Wray agreed, warning China has the ability to use TikTok to control data and present content that shapes public opinion should Beijing decide to invade Taiwan, according to CNN. While the intelligence community saw increasing pressure on Taiwan in the coming year, it stopped short of predicting a full-on invasion.

“The most fundamental piece that cuts across every one of those risks and threats that you mentioned that I think Americans need to understand is that something that’s very sacred in our country — the difference between the private sector and public sector — that’s a line that is nonexistent in the way that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] operates,” Wray said, CNN reported.

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