From the new report [released yesterday] of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission [364-page pdf]:
• Several Chinese advances have surprised U.S. defense and intelligence officials, and raised questions about the quality of our assessments of China’s military capabilities.
• Chinese military strategists have embraced disruptive warfare techniques, including the use of cyber attacks, and incorporated them in China’s military doctrine. Such attacks, if carried out strategically on a large scale, could have catastrophic effects on the target country’s critical infrastructure.
• China has developed an advanced anti-satellite program consisting of an array of weapons that could destroy, damage, or temporarily incapacitate an adversary’s satellites. The use of high energy lasers to temporarily blind U.S. satellites in late 2006 and the use of a direct-ascent anti-satellite kinetic weapon to destroy an aging Chinese satellite in early 2007 demonstrate that China now has this capacity.
• The Chinese defense industry, while still lagging far behind that of the United States, has begun achieving noteworthy progress over the past ten years. New generations of warships, fighter aircraft, spacecraft, submarines, missiles, and other sophisticated weapon platforms are coming off production lines at an impressive pace and with impressive quality.
• The pace at which each of China’s defense industrial sectors is modernizing varies in direct proportion to its degree of integration in the globalized production and R&D chains, because such integration provides access to the most up-to-date technologies and manufacturing expertise.
• China is supplementing the technologies that its defense industry obtains through commercial transfers and direct production partnerships with an aggressive and large-scale industrial espionage campaign. Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies.
Mao Zedong said that maintaining control over information is as important to ensuring continuation of communist rule as maintaining control over the army. This belief still permeates the government of the People’s Republic of China. The obsession with controlling information is one of the cornerstones of China’s internal security strategy. In practice, it seeks to suppress public awareness of endemic corruption, income inequality, growing social instability, democratic ideals that are emerging in some places despite the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to extinguish them, and human rights violations committed by the government. Beijing hides these issues and substitutes messages that attempt to repress dissent and maintain control.
The Chinese government accomplishes this through a carefully crafted system whereby it owns and controls many of China’s media outlets, and oversees the content delivered by the remaining media outlets in China. Under the direction of the Politburo and the government’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD), China’s journalists and editors at every media level are instructed to avoid issues deemed ‘‘sensitive’’ by Chinese leaders, and instead are encouraged to paint positive pictures of life in China. Additionally, those foreign publications and websites that are permitted access to the Chinese market must avoid topics the Party has forbidden. Special filters are used to block Internet messages containing ‘‘undesirable’’ information and to keep Chinese users away from ‘‘unhealthy’’ foreign websites such as The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, and this Commission’s website. Tens of thousands of ‘‘Internet police’’ monitor user activities and online content within China.
The PRC government has established a group of agencies that work together to manage China’s media content. This network oversees every aspect of China’s media—from television and radio to newspapers and the Internet—and operates under the explicit direction of the Politburo. This group of agencies is practiced and proficient in its censorship function. Journalists are subjected to a number of control mechanisms. Most Chinese reporters are required to participate in mandatory training sessions to indoctrinate them with political propaganda. If they do not attend, their reporting licenses are not renewed. ‘‘Propaganda Circulars’’ prepared by the Central Propaganda Department (CPD) are distributed to all media outlets in China to instruct editors and reporters how to handle developing issues and sensitive topics in their news stories.
According to a recent report by Dr. Anne-Marie Brady at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, the CCP has divided its propaganda work into two categories: internal (for which the CPD holds primary responsibility) and external (for which the Office of Foreign Propaganda [OFP] holds principal responsibility). Dr. Brady found that both these ‘‘highly secret’’ organizations are very closely linked and coordinated. The OFP is supervised by the Foreign Propaganda Leading Small Group, consisting of a handful of senior CCP leaders led by Mr. Cai Wu, who also heads the State Council Information Office. In her report, Dr. Brady lists China’s guidelines for propaganda. They include (1) issue no bad news during holidays or on other sensitive dates, (2) demonize the United States, (3) do not promote the views of the enemy, and (4) use international news to mold public opinion on issues relating to China. She goes on to explain the guideline pertaining to use of international media:
Selective reporting on international news has proven to be a very effective means of molding public opinion on issues relating to China. Hence, throughout the 1990s, the Chinese media gave detailed coverage of the problems of post-communist societies, while ignoring success stories. Such stories helped to mold public opinion on the likely outcome if China [were] to become a multi-party state. Similarly, China reported factually, but without comment, on the difficulties North Korea faced throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. This served as a caution to those on the left who were critical of China’s market-oriented reforms.
During the lead-up to the Iraq War the Chinese media [were] instructed by the Central Propaganda Department to bring the thinking of the Chinese people in line with that of the party centre, which held the view of opposition to the U.S. invasion. Coverage of the war was used as a means to attack the U.S. government’s position on human rights and other sensitive topics. Reporting on the war was strictly controlled; only officially designated Chinese journalists were permitted to travel to Iraq to report the war.