China’s officials step up online attacks

Chinese Communist Party officials are aggressively attacking global critics online using social media platforms they deny everyday people in China.

In an October 28 article, “How China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats use and abuse Twitter,” The Brookings Institution says the CCP has dramatically increased its presence on Twitter and is promoting false conspiracy theories online.

The team of “wolf warriors” — named after a nationalistic Chinese film franchise — are Chinese diplomats who, through social media and other public fora, advance conflicting conspiracy theories for the coronavirus to deflect blame. The team also floods online conversations about the regime’s human rights record with positive messaging, Brookings says.

The Wolf Warriors deploy “scorn, sarcasm, and conspiracy theories in their attempt to shape the global discourse,” Fergus Ryan, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says in a June 29 op-ed in Foreign Policy.

China’s embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted an image of a violent science fiction movie after U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo likened the CCP to a predator for its use of infrastructure projects to gain leverage over developing countries.

While China’s government officials use Twitter to attack critics of CCP policies, the party blocks the platform within China as part of an oppressive internet censorship campaign.

Wolf Warriors have stepped up their misinformation campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brookings says. In March, as the virus spread, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, stated falsely that COVID-19 started in the United States.

“Beijing has engaged in the promotion of multiple conspiracy theories about the virus’s origin in order to cast doubt on official versions of events,” according to the Institute.

More than a dozen Chinese diplomats and embassies retweeted Zhao Lijian’s original tweet. Brookings adds that “China’s diplomatic and state media accounts have since posted more than one hundred times” about a false conspiracy theory of the virus’s origin.

The CCP’s propaganda also hides its human rights violations. Regime Twitter accounts highlight the landscape and cultural diversity of Xinjiang, while hiding its oppression of predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups through mass internment, forced labor and other abuses.

The CCP has implemented the “Great Firewall” within the People’s Republic of China to prevent citizens from accessing Facebook and many other global social media providers. Further, the CCP controls the internet there, requiring the deletion of content it deems not in the interest of the state.