Researchers: Chinese influence operations seek to elevate China's image, not sow discord

Researchers: Chinese influence operations seek to elevate China's image, not sow discord
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Security researchers say they have determined that Chinese social media influence campaigns have been more directed at convincing Americans about the benefits of China, contrasting it with Russian efforts to sow discord among the U.S. public.

The Russian influence operations, often cited as part of the nation's interference in the 2016 election, largely tried to create divisions among Americans. But researchers with the security firm Recorded Future said in a report released Wednesday that Chinese state-run accounts instead try to amplify a more positive portrayal of China than incite U.S. communities to turn on each other.

“China’s message to the world is positive, and argues that China’s rise will be beneficial, cooperative, and constructive for the global community,” the report states. “In comparison, Russia’s strategic goals are more combative, revolutionary, and disruptive — all traits that are characteristic of Russian social media influence operations since 2015.”


In their analysis of Chinese state-run media accounts, researchers also found that the accounts did not launch a full-on influence campaign directed at Americans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. They did acknowledge that some influence operations did take place ahead of the midterms.

U.S. officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAmerica's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs MORE, have said that China and other countries had sought to influence Americans ahead of the midterm races. However, they also have stated that there is no evidence of foreign interference in the 2018 election.

The Recorded Future researchers also determined that the Chinese accounts saw increased engagement on their posts over the years. An engagement in social media is generally considered to be whenever an account interacts with a post, like sharing it or writing a comment.

But when it came to Instagram usage, Russian accounts both posted more frequently and had higher totals of engagement than Chinese ones.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE and other U.S. officials had warned of potential Chinese interference ahead of the midterms last year. But other leaders, like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenThe Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers MORE, said at the time that there was no evidence that a foreign adversary like China was targeting U.S. election systems.