In mid-March, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian levelled an unsubstantiated allegation on Twitter that the United States had “smuggled” the coronavirus into Wuhan, China. Zhao’s behaviour, and those of a growing tribe of China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats, are indicative of a new evolution in China’s efforts to influence global public opinion: a willingness to more overtly create and amplify disinformation. Instances like this, as well as earlier influence operations in Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2019-20, suggest that China is adding a new tool to its influence operations arsenal, which has earlier included co-opting foreign press outlets, building perverse ties with foreign political figures, economic coercion and covert diaspora management.
This panel will discuss and declutter the impetus, methods, narratives, and strategic stakes that are underpinning China’s evolving influence operations.
Elise Thomas, Australia Strategic Policy Institute
Matt Schrader, China expert
Dhruva Jaishankar, Director, US Initiative, ORF