China, in concert with Russia and Iran, are using the coronavirus pandemic to run a coordinated disinformation campaign on several platforms in the US, intended to raise fears about the controversial business lockdowns and how the outbreak began, according to multiple reports.
The three countries are using state-controlled news outlets, social media and government agencies to sow criticism against the US globally and to spread false accounts, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Fox News.
The disinformation is then picked up and magnified by each country, sending the false information reverberating across social media platforms where the repeated claims are given credibility.
In mid-March, messages that the Trump administration was ready to lock down the entire country began to appear on Americans’ cell-phones.
“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, citing a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”
The message was spread so widely that the White House’s National Security Council issued a warning on Twitter that the information was “FAKE,” the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
US intelligence agencies assessed that Chinese agents had distributed the message, the report said.
Among other unproven claims being circulated by China and Russia are that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation created the coronavirus with pharmaceutical companies to profit from the treatment, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Iran and Russia have repeated claims initially concocted by China that the US military developed the coronavirus as a bioweapon.
“It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent!” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has claimed.
The U.S. military has described that as “false & absurd.”
Top Chinese Communist Party officials have also directed its agents to spread disinformation about disunity among European nations while promoting Beijing’s “donation diplomacy,” without mentioning the reports that equipment delivered by China is often shoddy and that European leaders remain skeptical about China’s response to the pandemic, The Times reported.
The Chinese Communist Party, which has been spying on the US for decades to steal trade secrets and information technology, has ramped up its operations to put the blame for the pandemic on anybody but itself.
“It is about saving face for them,” a retired Pentagon official told Fox News. “It’s about leaking out false information, even to our [the U.S. intelligence] apparatus.”
“Most assuredly, the American people will demand some kind of financial response, if not outright reparations in the many billions,” a US defense official told Fox News. “And the Chinese cannot afford that, but they know Trump will cut into it, too.”
The Trump administration in March launched an operation to root out suspected spies in US media and Chinese outlets suspected of filing false reports.