Congress is seeking regular U.S. government reports outlining Chinese influence operations targeting the United States and its allies.
A provision of the House version of the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill calls on the Pentagon, State Department and American intelligence agencies to detail Chinese influence campaigns targeting U.S. military alliances and partnerships.
The reports would assess the Chinese government’s objectives for conducting influence operations and efforts by the Pentagon and the State Department to counter those operations, according to a version of the authorization bill made public Monday.
The language is included in the bill that seeks $744 billion for defense.
China is engaged in large-scale influence operations that seek to promote Beijing’s propaganda themes and policies. Its global disinformation campaign seeks to blame the U.S. Army for the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign includes daily reports in domestic Chinese state-run media and overseas propaganda outlets.
Scientists have confirmed that the pandemic began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and a U.S. intelligence report made public last week said the virus began either from a laboratory mishap in Wuhan or from a natural zoonotic leap from an animal to humans.
Chinese influence activities have gone largely unchallenged by the U.S. government despite the creation several years ago of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, a unit in charge of countering foreign influence campaigns.
Exposure of nefarious Chinese influence operations in Australia, including the outing of a member of parliament linked to the Chinese military, led to new restrictions on Chinese activities in that nation.
Most of China’s influence activities are conducted under the direction of a Chinese Communist Party organ called the United Front Work Department. The activities are carried out by Chinese state media, diplomats and intelligence personnel.
The Senate version of the authorization bill has not been made public. A summary of the Senate version states that it will modify the Pentagon’s annual report on the Chinese military.
Both versions, however, would reauthorize the Pentagon to produce annual reports on China’s military.
To become effective, the House language on Chinese influence operations must survive a House-Senate conference committee that would reconcile the two versions after passage by both legislative bodies.
The House bill would mandate reports that assess Chinese influence operations and publicize a list of all Chinese state and nonstate organizations involved in the operations.
The reports also would identify tactics, techniques and procedures used in previous influence operations.
Additionally, the reports would assess the impact of Chinese influence campaigns, including the views of senior Chinese government officials on the effectiveness of the operations.
The government also would be required under the bill to identify all U.S. military allies and partners that are targeted by the Chinese campaigns, both past and anticipated in the future.
The legislation also calls on the federal government to recommend authorities and activities for the Pentagon and the State Department to develop a strategy to counter the influence operations.
Other China-related elements of the House bill would require the federal government to report on Chinese activities in Latin America and the Caribbean; tighten security of printed circuit boards that could be penetrated electronically by Chinese agents; and state congressional support for the defense of Taiwan.
Both the House and Senate bills would fund the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a $6.2 billion effort to bolster defenses in Asia.