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15 Mar, 2024 20:42

Trump ordered CIA operation against China – report

The social media influencing campaign was intended to foster ‘paranoia’ among top leaders in Beijing, Reuters reported
Trump ordered CIA operation against China – report

Former US President Donald Trump authorized a secret CIA influence campaign aimed at smearing the Chinese government and turning public opinion against its leaders, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing ex-officials with knowledge of the operation.

According to the report, the CIA formed a team of operatives in 2019 who used fake internet identities to spread “negative narratives” about President Xi Jinping’s government and leak “disparaging intelligence” to foreign news outlets.

Among the narratives spread by the CIA on Chinese social media platforms were allegations that members of the ruling Communist Party were hiding money overseas. The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global infrastructure development strategy, was also framed as “corrupt and wasteful.”

The US officials who spoke to Reuters said the effort by the Trump administration was intended to “foment paranoia among top leaders” and force the government in Beijing to expend resources chasing up intrusions into its internet space.

“We wanted them chasing ghosts,” one former official said. The sources described the operation as an American response to “years of aggressive covert efforts by China aimed at increasing its global influence.”

A CIA spokesperson contacted by Reuters declined to comment on the existence of the program.

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the outlet that the revelation proved that Washington uses public platforms “as weapons to spread false information and manipulate international public opinion.”

During his time in office, Trump orchestrated a shift in US foreign policy from the Middle East to China, with the Pentagon branding China as Washington’s top “strategic competitor” in its 2018 National Defense Strategy. Trump also waged a large-scale trade war against Beijing for much of his term.

In 2020, the president also tried to block access to the Chinese-owned TikTok platform through an executive order, arguing that it was a threat to national security.

Amid recently renewed efforts by Congress to ban the app, Trump, now the 2024 the Republican presidential frontrunner, told CNBC this week that he chose to back away from efforts to ban the platform due to its popularity among young Americans and concerns that it would strengthen rival social media giant Facebook, which he described as “an enemy of the people.”

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to force the platform’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell the app within six months or face a US ban – and on Friday, former US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was building an investor group to buy TikTok.

Reuters said it was unable to determine what impact the secret CIA operation had in China or whether President Joe Biden’s administration has maintained it.

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