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Trigger warning. The CCP’s coordinated information effort to discredit the BBC

By Jacob Wallis, Albert Zhang and Ariel Bogle

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) diplomatic accounts, Chinese state media, pro-CCP influencers and patriotic trolls are targeting the UK public broadcaster, the BBC, in a coordinated information operation. Recent BBC reports, including the allegations of systematic sexual assault in Xinjiang’s internment camps, were among a number of triggers provoking the CCP’s propaganda apparatus to discredit the BBC, distract international attention and recapture control of the narrative.

In ASPI ICPC’s new report, Albert Zhang and Dr Jacob Wallis provide a snapshot of the CCP’s ongoing coordinated response targeting the BBC, which leveraged YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and was broadly framed around three prominent narratives:

  1. That the BBC spreads disinformation and is biased against China
  2. That the BBC’s domestic audiences think that it’s biased and not to be trusted
  3. That the BBC’s reporting on China is instigated by foreign actors and intelligence agencies.

In addition, the report analyses some of the secondary effects of this propaganda effort by exploring the mobilisation of a pro-CCP Twitter network that has previously amplified the Covid-19 disinformation content being pushed by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and whose negative online engagement with the BBC peaks on the same days as that of the party-state’s diplomats and state media. 

To contest and blunt criticism of the CCP’s systematic surveillance and control of minority ethnic groups, the party will continue to aggressively deploy its propaganda and disinformation apparatus. Domestic control remains fundamental to its political power and legitimacy, and internationally narrative control is fundamental to the pursuit of its foreign policy interests.