Leader of the Select Committee on the CCP warned that ‘we have to be super vigilant’ against potential communist Chinese influence operations.
The United States “would be naive” to assume that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) won’t try to interfere with the 2024 elections, according to a House panel leader on strategic competition with the regime.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the Select Committee on the CCP, noted at a Feb. 5 Semafor panel that the Chinese regime has developed a “very, very sophisticated approach to discourse power.”
Deepfakes—the manipulation of facial appearance through artificial intelligence to create and refine fake content—is but one technology Beijing is trying to employ for political interference in Taiwan and elsewhere, he said.
“I think we would be naive that either the CCP or CCP aligned actors would not attempt to use some of this technology here in the U.S.,” he told the attendees. Beijing, he suggested, could spread its influence through social media ads, such as on China-owned TikTok, which, based on recent Pew Research Center data, has become the primary news source for one third of Americans under 30.
“You can easily see how certain content that might be critical of one individual in our country or might be supportive of another individual in our country could be manipulated,” he said. “We see that certainly with regard to content critical or supportive of the CCP, it’s possible … it’s within what they can do.”
Concerns over the CCP’s election interference came into focus with the recent Taiwan presidential election. The weeks leading up to polling day saw the regime ramping up a war of words, threatening the use of military force to annex the self-ruling island while sending suspicious balloons and a satellite that Taiwan officials said was on an “abnormal trajectory.”
The tensions became so heightened that Washington warned Beijing not to interject its influence in Taiwan’s democratic process, adding that “Beijing will be the provocateur should it choose to respond with additional military pressure or coercion.”
Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping had reportedly promised President Joe Biden not to interfere with the upcoming U.S. presidential election during their meeting in November.
“And we believe that,” Mr. Krishnamoorthi said, chuckling.
Whether it’s propping up one candidate over another, or sowing discord, “we have to be super vigilant,” he said.
“The Taiwanese were a model for monitoring what social media interference looks like from the CCP. They were very good at exposing disinformation, the Ukrainians are very good at this today with regard to the Russians, I think we can learn lessons from them with regard to potential political interference or worse—cyber attacks.”
Such cyber attacks can pose real world threats.
Analysts and assessments from the intelligence community have further added weight to Mr. Krishnamoorthi’s concerns.
One Chinese influence campaign involved covertly denigrating a U.S. senator using inauthentic accounts. While the report didn’t find Beijing targeting specific election infrastructure, it noted that Chinese cyber actors had scanned more than 100 U.S. state and national political party domains. It also observed an increased focus in China’s English-language messaging efforts on TikTok on divisive issues such as abortion, mass shootings, and immigration.
The regime has shown “greater willingness to conduct election influence activities than in past cycles,” the report stated.
Since 2020, senior top Chinese officials have issued “broad directives” to intensify efforts to turn U.S. policy and public opinion in the CCP’s favor, giving the operatives more freedom for such activities ahead of the 2022 midterms, in part because “they did not expect the current administration to retaliate as severely as they feared in 2020.”