Accentuate the positive, ignore or deny the negative. That’s pretty much how state-controlled news groups have been operating in China. With Western reporting of the country, though, it has been the other way round. Chinese propaganda, highly centralised and state-directed, is primarily defensive in nature. Western propaganda, by contrast, is far more diffuse but mostly offensive. (See My Take: How Xi Jinping became the real-life Dr Evil through the mainstream Western media, on February 3.) Here’s a sampling of positive Chinese news, celebrated – or spun – as the nation’s achievements in the past year by the state media. I borrowed this list from China Briefing, the web news service. It’s long: “Eliminated extreme poverty. Reached 98 per cent home ownership. Kept the Covid death rate at 0.6 per cent of America’s. Grew the economy by US$2 trillion at purchasing power parity (PPP), the fastest growth ever. Became the richest country on earth. Became the world’s biggest overseas investor. Became the world’s largest movie market. Produced one new billionaire and 300 millionaires every workday. (This one may no longer sit well with the new party line of “common prosperity”.) “Completed new train lines in seven countries, including Laos’ first. Ran 15,000 cargo trains to and from Europe, up 30 per cent year on year. Joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact, with 30 per cent of global GDP and 30 per cent of the world’s population. Sold US$140 billion retail online in 24 hours (Amazon’s record is US$5 billion). “Launched the first central bank digital currency. Dominated scientific research and issued the most patents of any country. Built three ‘exascale’ computers to win the Gordon Bell prize. Built a programmable quantum computer 10,000x faster than Google’s Sycamore. Operated the first integrated, 3,000-mile, commercial, quantum communications network. Brought online two gas-cooled Pebble Bed nuclear power plants. Fired up two thorium-fuelled reactors, eliminating uranium from power generation. Released a Covid treatment that reduces hospitalisations and deaths 78 per cent. “Made 55 per cent of global energy savings. Generated 1 terawatt of renewable energy. Installed one-million 5G base stations, giving Tibet better 5G service than New York. Communicated between satellites via lasers, 1,000x faster than radio waves. Operated the world’s most powerful solid rocket engine, with 500 tonnes thrust. Flew three hypersonic missiles around the planet. Released a fractional orbital bombardment missile from another missile at 17,000mph. Simultaneously commissioned three warships, becoming the world’s biggest navy.” On top of all that is, of course, the successful final preparation of the Winter Olympics. What are the hacking accusations against China? As an ethnic Chinese and native Hongkonger, I confess to being rather impressed by the long list and proud of it. As a highly Westernised person, I can appreciate why many people around the world would just roll their eyes. However, such one-sided reporting aims primarily at the domestic audience in China, and perhaps the Chinese diaspora, so Beijing probably wouldn’t care too much if foreigners weren’t convinced and didn’t react in awe. There is also a darker aspect of Chinese propaganda, which often involves clandestine penetration of foreign social media platforms to push for China’s points of view and narratives. This “hybrid” media or information warfare has been extensively studied and documented by the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto. But again, I would stress the defensive nature of those operations, however sinister and dangerous they may be. They are quite different from such information warfare conducted by Russia and the United States. These are offensive in nature and aim to produce adverse outcomes in the domestic politics and/or economy of the targeted country such as regime change, political delegitimisation, and societal and economic destabilisation. The Kremlin’s influence operations – which, for example, exploited popular social media such as Facebook to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election and its outcome in 2016 – are well-known. American public outrage, though, did not garner much international sympathy as influencing or undermining the elections of other countries have been the stock-in-trade of US foreign policy for more than a century now. Closer to home, Washington’s “Countering Chinese Influence Fund” has a budget of US$300 million for each of the financial years 2020 through 2024. And US$10 million – aren’t we Hongkongers lucky? – has been budgeted for the financial year of 2022 for “the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour of the Department of State to promote democracy in Hong Kong”. These are full-spectrum operations, including information warfare and media manipulation under the guise of promoting democracy and freedom. A 2019 study by the US cybersecurity company Recorded Future concluded: “We believe that Russian social media influence operations are disruptive and destabilising because those techniques support Russia’s primary strategic goal. Conversely, China’s state-run social media operations are largely positive and coordinated because those techniques support Chinese strategic goals.” (Italics are mine.) I concur, though I would add America’s to that of Russia.