Chinese Marketing Firm Orchestrates Pro-Beijing Influence Campaign in the US
In a far-reaching pro-Beijing influence campaign, a Chinese marketing firm organized and promoted protests in Washington, D.C., while utilizing a network of over 70 fake news websites to disseminate pro-China content. The protests, one against the US government ban on goods from China’s Xinjiang region and the other at an international religious freedom conference, showed the scope of the China’s influence operations.
What This Means? Impacting US Political Discourse and Media Integrity
The revelations of a Chinese marketing firm’s involvement in orchestrating protests and disseminating pro-China narratives raise concerns about the manipulation of US political discourse and media integrity. As foreign countries continue to expand their influence campaigns in an increasingly connected world, the US government will have to battle influence campaigns waged on the minds of the US population.
What Are The Details?
Mandiant’s investigation unveiled the scope and ambition of the pro-China influence campaign carried out by Shanghai Haixun Technology Co., Ltd. The orchestrated protests in Washington were aimed at countering a US government ban on goods produced in China’s Xinjiang region, which has been under scrutiny for alleged human rights violations against the Uyghur minority. Another protest coincided with an international religious freedom conference.
The hired protesters, some self-proclaimed musicians and actors based in the Washington, D.C., area, appeared to have no knowledge that they were participating in a pro-China influence operation.
Furthermore, the Haixun marketing firm employed a newswire service, CloudQuote.io, operated by FinancialContent, to disseminate pro-Beijing articles on nearly three dozen legitimate US news outlets, including outlets such as the Arizona Republic and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The articles often echoed Chinese state media narratives while sharply criticizing US policymakers, academics, and others critical of Beijing. Although the extent of Chinese state actors’ direct involvement in financing these articles remains uncertain, much of the content was directly reproduced from Chinese state media reports or state-funded think tanks.
The exposure of Haixun’s campaign may prompt investigations into its activities and raise questions about the impact of similar influence efforts on US political discourse. Policymakers and tech platforms may consider implementing strategies to combat foreign information campaigns.
However, this is far from the first foreign information campaign uncovered in recent years and those in power are likely already very aware of the need to address psychological operations such as this one.
Go Deeper: Further Resources and Reading
Mandiant’s full publication on their in-depth research can be read on their site here, https://www.mandiant.com/resources/blog/pro-prc-haienergy-us-news