US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has alleged that China, in addition to propaganda and influence operations, uses trade to “coerce” compliance with its diktats. In his address to a group of people at Phoenix in Arizona, the Trump administration official said that the efforts of China to control people’s minds beyond its borders is well underway.
“In addition to propaganda and influence operations, the Chinese Communist Party uses trade to coerce compliance with its dictates,” O’Brien said. The White House released this transcript released on 26 June.
When Australia called for an independent investigation of the coronavirus’ origins and spread, the Communist Party of China (CPC) threatened to stop buying Australian agricultural products. Beijing threatened Canberra to also prevent Chinese students and tourists from travelling to Australia, O’Brien said.
When Australia refused to relent, Beijing put executed these threats, imposing an 80% tariff on Australian barley exports, the NSA said. He said that China has sought leadership positions within many global bodies — noting that international organisations are part of China’s plan, too.
China heads 4 out of 15 UN specialised agencies, which it uses to force the international bodies to parrot Beijing’s talking points and also install Chinese telecommunications equipment in their facilities, O’Brien alleged. For example, since Zhao Houlin of the International Telecommunications Union took his post, he began to aggressively promote Huawei sales, he said.
Secretary-General Fang Liu of the International Civil Aviation Organisation has blocked Taiwan’s participation in General Assembly meetings and covered up a Chinese hack of the organisation. The CPC has used China’s membership on the UN Human Rights Council to prevent criticism of its abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, he said.
O’Brien alleged that the Chinese reach extends to heads of international organisations who are not themselves Chinese officials.
“Under Beijing’s thumb, and at an unacceptable cost to human life, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organisation (WHO) dutifully used the Chinese talking points on the Wuhan virus. As late as mid-January, he claimed that there was no human-to-human transmission of the disease and opposed international travel restrictions,” he said, adding that at the same time, Tedros praised China’s own domestic travel restrictions on Wuhan residents.
The US NSA said the Chinese people could travel overseas, but they could not travel and potentially take the virus to Beijing or Shanghai. These Chinese tactics in international organisations, as we have seen with the coronavirus, are a major cause of concern not just for the US, but to the world, the NSA said.
O’Brien alleged that Beijing had used its financial might and market access to pressure Hollywood into self-censorship, incentivising directors and producers to avoid topics that might not make it past the country’s censors in China. For example, the Japanese and Taiwanese flags were dropped from Tom Cruise’s flight jacket in the upcoming Top Gun sequel Maverick. MGM digitally changed the identities, post-production of the invading military from China to North Korea in the “Red Dawn” remake.
China is seeking leverage over individual Americans as well, the NSA said. “The Party is collecting your most intimate data — your words, actions, purchases, whereabouts, health records, social media posts, texts and mapping your network of friends, family and acquaintances,” O’Brien said.
The NSA alleged that China accomplished this goal partly by subsidising hardware, software, telecommunications, and even genetics companies. Consequently, corporations such as Huawei and ZTE undercut competitors on price and install their equipment around the globe at a loss. This has the side effect of putting out of business American manufacturers of telecom hardware and has made it very difficult for Nokia and Ericsson.
“Why do they do it? Because it is not telecom hardware or software profits the CPC are after, it is your data. They use ‘backdoors’ built into the products to obtain that data,” O’Brien said, adding when the “CPC cannot buy your data, it steals”.
“How will the Chinese Communist Party use this data? In the same way it uses data within China’s borders: to target, flatter, cajole, influence, coerce and even blackmail individuals to say and do things that serve the CPC’s interests.
“This is ‘micro-targeting’ beyond an advertiser’s wildest dreams. China, unlike advertisers, will not be stopped by government regulations. The CPC simply wants to know everything about you — just as it likes to know almost everything about every individual living in China,” O’Brien added.