US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has alleged that in addition to propaganda and influence operations, China uses trade to “coerce” compliance with its dictates.
The top Trump administration official, in his address to a group of people at Phoenix in Arizona, said that China’s efforts to control the mind of people residing 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, according to a White House transcript released on Friday (June 27).
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 and to prevent Chinese students and tourists from traveling to Australia, he said.
When Australia refused to relent, Beijing put these threats into force, imposing an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley exports, the NSA said.
Noting that international organisations are also part of China’s plan, he said that China has sought leadership positions within many global bodies.
China now heads four out of 15 UN specialised agencies, more than the US, the UK, France and Russia, the other members of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, combined. China uses these leaders to force the international bodies to parrot Beijing’s talking points and to install Chinese telecommunications equipment in their facilities, he 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.
In other words, they 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.
Beijing, he alleged, has 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, he 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 in his address.
He alleged that China accomplishes this goal, in part, by subsidising hardware, software, telecommunications, and even genetics companies.
As a result, 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,” he 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.