by Curtis Ellis
We are at war with the Chinese Communist Party. To be precise, the Chinese Communist Party, CCP, is at war with the U.S.
The war is happening now on three fronts. And it’s not being fought with bombs and bullets.
It is an economic war. It is an ideological war. It is an information war.
On the economic front, the CCP has targeted American industries for extinction. By subsidizing its own industries, dumping products at prices below the cost of production and manipulating the value of its currency, it undersells American producers, grabs market share from them and drives them into bankruptcy. It has done this in industry after industry, from steel and aluminum to telecommunications, automotives and energy.
On the ideological front, the CCP sells its system of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” – one-party rule, a centrally planned economy, government oversight of every aspect of society – as superior to Western liberal democracy. With happy talk and lucrative deals, it lulls Western opinion makers into accepting the Marxist-Leninist state as a benign partner.
But the most vigorous contest is being fought on the information front. In the “virtual” cyberworld, the war is very real.
The best-known example is Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant and a leader in 5G internet technology. The Trump administration has barred Huawei hardware from American telecom systems and is encouraging others to do the same.
The battle is not about market share and hardware per se. The CCP wants access to the data flowing through the hardware, and the administration will not allow that to happen.
The administration is also barring TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media video-sharing app, for similar reasons. The app delivers custom content to users but more importantly harvests the users’ personal information. The app’s artificial-intelligence algorithm assembles detailed psychographic profiles of TikTok users by monitoring the videos they prefer.
In a leaked document from TikTok’s parent company, Byte Dance, a software architect described how it works.
The algorithm collects the user’s characteristics including age, gender, searching and surfing histories; the characteristics of posts the user interacts with, including the subject of the post and how long the user takes to view the post; and the user’s location. The algorithm will then generate recommendations to the user – and can promote CCP propaganda content to users. The CCP does not want to expose exactly how the algorithm works and has moved to block the sale of TikTok.
The CCP aggregates information gathered from various sources to create a dossier on individual Americans.
For example, it hacked U.S. government personnel records, discovering who’s ever been paid by Washington. Armed with that information, its hack of Marriott, a hotel chain with a large presence in China, revealed any undercover U.S. government employees or contractors who visited the country, and when.
The CCP’s data harvesting efforts are extensive. Silicon Valley startup Alphonso shares data with Chinese state-owned technology company Hisense. Alphonso software embedded in video game apps uses a smartphone’s microphone to gather users’ TV and movie viewing data. The software is also installed on tens of millions of smart TVs and set top boxes in the U.S.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is concerned a Chinese company seeking to take over GNC is not just buying outlets for Chinese-made vitamins and supplements – it’s buying the personal information of Americans who shop there.
The CCP unabashedly aims to control the information landscape on a global scale. It understands whoever controls information controls hearts and minds. It blocks access to the internet behind the Great Firewall and wants others to adopt its censorship model.
The CCP has launched a “Global Initiative on Data Security” to set global standards on data security, the Wall Street Journal reports. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says, “It is important to develop a set of international rules on data security that reflect the will and respect the interests of all countries.”
The CCP’s will and interests – as well as its track record – disqualify it from setting international rules for data.
Sadly, the same can be said of Facebook and Google.
The information war is raging all around us.
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Curtis Ellis is a political communications consultant and senior policy adviser with America First Policies.
Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore.CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Xi Jinping” by Palácio do Planalto. CC BY 2.0. Background Photo “China-American Flags” by Alex Microbe. CC BY-SA 4.0.