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China: Europe Must Be Sensitive to State Propaganda


China tries to paint a certain picture of itself abroad and is increasingly beginning to manipulate the publics of other countries. Germany does not seem to be well prepared for this.

Enlarge image

Chinese Government Members at a Congress: Striving for "Peace and Good Food"

Photo: Ju Peng / dpa / XinHua

At the end of May, the Chinese head of state Xi Jinping called for "the story of China to be told well."

He said this at a Politburo meeting on "Strengthening and Improving Foreign Propaganda," and that is the reason why not only the meeting but also the expected consequences for Europe are extremely interesting.

Not to say: threatening.

Because China is getting more and more into the business of manipulating the publics of other countries, and Europe - and especially Germany - seem not to be particularly well prepared.

Eurocentrism, not infrequently combined with a moderate dose of racism, has been a problem for white people for a long time, effective for roughly everyone else.

As in an ironic volte of world politics, European hubris has for some time turned into a massive problem for the continent itself. The feeling of a diffuse, often somehow vulgarly culturally based superiority brings with it a sometimes absurd naivete through overconfidence - which in turn is exploited.

We have known for a long time from Putin's Russia how aggressively, strategically and cleverly the various organs of the state and their henchmen manipulate the European publics. And how skilfully they know how to exploit German political clumsiness. As in a triple pincer strategy, Putin relies on the one hand on henchmen of the kind Gerhard Schröder or Matthias Platzeck, on the other hand on the often anti-American and reactionary tinted good faith of the German Putin fan base and on the third hand on targeted propaganda with the help of editorial and social media. Keyword: troll factories.

China seems to be just beginning in most of these propaganda disciplines. But besides the Politburo meeting, there are a number of signs that China is further professionalising its propaganda influence. The German government's regular, secret “Hybrid Threats Management Report” on June 14, for example, highlights China in addition to Russia.

In the opinion of the responsible department of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, a school project in Heitersheim, Baden-Württemberg, which has since failed, could not have pursued the goal of "international exchange", but would have - a surprise!

- should mainly serve to exert political influence.

The underlying Chinese investor group with very close personal proximity to the Chinese Communist Party was not stopped by politics at all.

But from a citizens' initiative.

It is essential to evaluate which system is better

One of the central figures of the school project uttered elements of the Chinese propaganda strategy in an interview in autumn 2020. When asked about his membership in the Chinese bogus parliament, the educational entrepreneur said: »We have different political systems. I don't want to judge which one is better and which one is worse. Ultimately, we all strive for peace and good food. «Yes, yes, probably the Uyghurs too, one would like to answer.

The investor's formulation is so disastrous because it uses cultural equality as a camouflage to portray dictatorship and liberal democracy as equals.

The investor does not want to evaluate what is better and what is worse - but in Germany in particular, the absolute indispensability of a freedom-democratic basic order in the educational context must be established.

Without alternative.

It is essential to evaluate which system is better: namely, the non-dictatorship.

The difficulty lies in separating the moral superiority of the political system from the non-superiority in culture and society.

The more susceptible someone is to racist devaluation, the less successful it is.

And how big it is compared to people of Asian origin has been shown again in the Corona crisis.

The Ministry of the Interior's paper on the "hybrid threat" gives an impressive example of the spectacular, political naivety described at the highest European level. In 2020, the EU Parliament equipped Parliament with surveillance cameras from Hikvision as part of the Corona crisis. They can measure the body temperature of passers-by and thus detect fever early on. The tiny problem: Hikvision is more than 40 percent owned by the Chinese state, is the world's largest surveillance company and is pretty much sure to have its fingers in the technology-driven persecution of the Uighurs in the dirty, inhuman game.

As it became known in spring 2021, data from Hikvision cameras will automatically flow to a Chinese server in Hangzhou. "Maintenance work, cloud functions," said the European Hikvision company representative. It was not until April 2021, after loud protests from parliamentary staff, that the EU Parliament removed the Hikvision cameras. In addition to the dictatorial involvement of the surveillance company, the almost funny lack of need of those responsible is particularly shocking.

This essentially Eurocentric, naive, self-overestimating attitude is cross-dangerous because China is vastly superior to Europe in a number of disciplines. Therefore, in the globalized world, cooperation is actually necessary. But they only make sense if Europe is alert and sensitive to propaganda at all relevant levels. That is what makes it so difficult. As far as artificial intelligence is concerned, for example, without Sino-European cooperation, progress will be much slower and slower, especially in research.

In recent years, China has shown many times how radically the leadership abuses the country's economic power and market relevance for political purposes. The central mechanism is that China is currently the most important market in the world. From the automotive industry to the entertainment industry, hardly any global company can afford to forego sales in China. To put it in an order of magnitude: Volkswagen sold an unbelievable 41.8 percent of its vehicles in China in 2020. The average of the three big Daimler, BMW, VW was 38.2 percent. Translated, this means: No car company in Germany can even afford to hint at a conflict with the CPC - they would be in serious risk of bankruptcy, the stock market would stomp them into the ground.In the entertainment industry, China has already publicly exploited this power on a number of occasions.

In 2019, the manager of the NBA club Houston Rockets tweeted his support for the protests in Hong Kong. 24 hours later, the Chinese team sponsor announced the collaboration, the Chinese state television announced that it would no longer broadcast the Rockets' games, and a major Chinese bank suspended its business with the Rockets. Eventually the manager deleted the tweet, apologized verbatim, and claimed it was all pretty complicated.

The owner of the club went even further in his kneeling position and hurried to say: "We are not a political organization!" Yes, yes, just differently than he thinks, namely the bailiff organization of a dictatorship with international striving for power. The whole incident also works as a threatening scenario: Do ​​not stand against us, otherwise you will regret it. And the "extraterritorial claim to validity" of Chinese-controlled rules, as the BMI paper writes, is being expanded further.

China has long been putting Western digital corporations under pressure to kindly follow the Chinese notions of censorship around the world. In early June, Microsoft removed images and videos of the "Tank Man", the famous photo in connection with the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, from its Bing search engine worldwide. Microsoft publicly stated afterwards that it was human error, but if CNN did not had reported about it, there would have been a good chance that this Chinese public manipulation would have been effective.

When you consider how strongly and lastingly Russian, digitally driven propaganda has disrupted and damaged Western, liberal democracies - it is high time for an intensive, political, social debate about the consequences of the announcement by China's head of state. Xi demands "to intensify the struggle for public opinion worldwide". China must "further increase its international discourse power and influence." The European, democratic public has to oppose it (in a non-racist way) - much better than it did with Putin.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-06-19

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