France is going into elections this April, and French President Emmanuel Macron is now making it a point to remove every single speck of Chinese influence from his country. And his target is China’s biggest geopolitical tool overseas— its all-powerful propaganda regime.
Macron said on Tuesday that online platforms and foreign “propaganda” media are the main drivers behind the spread of disinformation in the country — and he wants to rein them in. He said, “Online platforms, influencers, and also citizens who sometimes take a considerable place in the public debate precisely through these new platforms … must have a framework of responsibility that is yet to be built.”
Macron- a national security threat for China
Macron’s vow of cracking the whip on foreign media and propaganda outlets is nothing less than a death knell for the Chinese information warfare. Frankly speaking, Macron is a national security threat for the Chinese regime! He is vocal about China’s rampant human rights violations. He is reshaping the EU policies to harm Beijing’s interests. And now, when France has assumed the presidency of the EU, red flags have gone up in Beijing.
China’s propaganda regime
Beijing holds extraordinary expertise in carrying out information warfare on foreign lands. In September last year, a French study had warned of massive Chinese influence in several nations of the world, including France. As the authors of this report mentioned; China today thinks that “it is safer to be feared than to be loved”. So, it is using its propaganda machinery to instil fears among the foreign governments.
In July last year, France’s National Agency for Information Systems Security (ANSSI) had revealed that a Chinese hacking group known as APT31 (sometimes known as Zirconium or Judgment Panda) is using compromised routers to target French organizations and households.
Given France’s outspoken and bold stance on China’s human rights abuses; and France’s active involvement in the Indo-Pacific affairs, China could very well harness this propaganda regime to disseminate fake news campaigns or information warfare against Emmanuel Macron.
China loses control of the EU’s China policy
After Angela Merkel’s exit from the German administration, China has lost control of the EU’s China policy now. So, China is attempting to placate the French government to soften the EU’s stance, right before the Beijing Olympics. For instance, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi recently invited the diplomatic counsellor to Macron, Emmanuel Bonne, to visit China and hold a “strategic dialogue” with the Chinese government.
China fears that a French presidency could damage EU-China relations beyond repair. So, for the time being, China is tactfully flirting with the French government to dampen Macron’s anti-China campaign. But in the long run, China is aspiring to ouster Macron using its information warfare.
China’s information warfare in Canada
China’s information warfare is real, and it is indeed powerful. For instance, newly emerged reports now reveal that China-backed propaganda campaigns had played a key role in defeating several Conservative, China-hawk candidates in the 2021 federal elections. For example, a Conservative MP called Kenny Chiu became the target of China’s propaganda warfare only after he threatened to expose all China-linked agents in the Canadian administration. Resultantly, Kenny Chiu lost his House of Commons seat in the last year’s elections.