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Oct. 25, 2018
Notes from the Pentagon

New details on Chinese election meddling
Vice President Mike Pence announced earlier this month that China is working to unseat President Trump and meddle in U.S. elections, revealing what he said was Beijing’s plan as outlined in an internal government propaganda directive.

“In June, Beijing circulated a sensitive document, entitled ‘Propaganda and Censorship Notice,’ that laid out its strategy,” Mr. Pence said in an Oct. 4 speech outlining a tougher U.S. policy toward China.

“It states that China must ‘strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups’ in the United States,” he noted.

As part of the directive, “Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies,” the vice president said, noting that a senior U.S. intelligence official told him that Russian election meddling “pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”

White House officials said the document the vice president referred to is a confidential Chinese government directive that was published in the California-based China Digital Times.

The censorship notice published online did not identify the government or Communist Party department that wrote the directive. But the notice directs China’s tightly controlled network of newspapers, television, radio and social media outlets to sharply restrict all reporting on the ongoing U.S.-Chinese trade dispute.

The June 28 directive states that China’s most senior official in charge of the trade dispute, Vice Premier Liu He, has said that in the U.S.-Chinese “trade war,” the Chinese side must remain “calm and rational, strengthen interdepartmental coordination, [and] establish a coherent power in stabilizing market forecasts.”

“We are done with talks, we must now not yield an inch, and formulate reciprocal measures,” the directive says, according to a translation different from the one the vice president used.

“We must carefully control our propaganda tone, not to escalate, not to expand the scope. Instead, we must fire precision strikes, we must sow discord among different groups in the United States and make them collapse. Trade war is in reality a war against China’s rise. We must see who can last to the end, and we must never be weak and soft in action and in rhetoric.”

In conducting trade war propaganda against the United States, Beijing created what it calls the Three Don’t Relays: “Don’t relay comments from Trump, from U.S. government spokespersons, or from U.S. officials,” according to the document.

The notice also tells Chinese propaganda outlets not to “attack Trump’s vulgarity” and “Don’t make this a war of insults.”

“All media should prepare well for protracted conflict,” the notice says. “Don’t follow the American side’s fluctuating declarations. Play down the correlations between the stock market and trade conflict.”

The Chinese government is also ordering propaganda reports to play up “economic bright spots” that appear to show steadying improvements in the Chinese economy. Such stories are to be given “important page placement” in newspapers and timed to have maximum impact.

“Interview experts recommended by each department; websites and Weibo and WeChat accounts must emphasize suitable forms of network propaganda,” said the directive, referring to two major Chinese microblogs.

The document concludes with a warning not to mention China’s long-term strategy to corner world markets in high technology known as Made in China 2025, “or there will be consequences.”

China is known to fire or imprison editors who fail to follow the directives of the Communist Party’s propaganda department, the likely origin of the directive.

Two radio stations in Honolulu are broadcasting Chinese propaganda into Hawaii, location of the Pacific Command.

The command views the two Chinese-language stations as supporting Beijing’s overall information operations against the United States that include “influence activities” in support of Beijing policies, espionage, identity theft and intellectual property theft.

One of the stations was identified by military officials as KHCM, which broadcasts some programming directly supplied by China Radio International (CRI), the state-owned propaganda outlet for overseas broadcasts. CRI recently merged with China’s state television to create the China Media Group, also called the Voice of China.

Disclosure of the Chinese radio propaganda in Hawaii comes as Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Phoenix Television is seeking Federal Communications Commission approval to buy a radio station near Tijuana that critics say will be used to beam Chinese propaganda into Southern California, targeting the large Chinese-American community there.

Radio Station XEWW-AM is being bought by the New York financial firm H&H Capital Partners, a firm that FCC documents indicate will shift the current Spanish-language radio station into a Mandarin broadcaster.

“The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) is waging an information warfare campaign to undermine American democracy,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said in a Sept. 11 letter opposing the sale to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“The decision before the commission risks allowing the CPC to broadcast government-approved propaganda into Southern California, one of the most densely populated regions in America of Mandarin speakers, to boost that warfare campaign.”

Under an agreement with Mexico, the sale of any station in Mexico that broadcasts into the United States must be approved by the FCC.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency is joining efforts of the Army, Navy and Air Force to develop hypersonic missiles — ultra-high-speed weapons capable of maneuvering to avoid missile defenses.

“MDA is actively participating in a department-wide Common Hypersonic Glide Body Memorandum of Agreement where we are participating in development efforts and leveraging investments in hypersonic technology across the department to advance our counter-hypersonic activities,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the MDA director, said in a statement to Inside the Ring.

The Common Hypersonic Glide Body is the name being used by the military for a triad of high-speed missile variants for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The three versions will be designed for firing from Army ground-based missiles, from Navy ship and submarine missile-launch tubes, and from Air Force bombers.

The inclusion of the MDA in the hypersonic missile program was confirmed by Gen. Greaves after Aviation Week first reported on the collaboration this week.

A defense official said the group effort will include pooling the research of weapons engineers for both missiles and missile defenses.

“We’re trying to come up with anti-missile missiles. We want to knock down things like that,” the official said.

MDA is the lead Pentagon unit for defenses against hypersonic missiles and will be involved in developing hypersonic missile defense interceptors and hypersonic target missiles. Hypersonic missiles currently are being developed rapidly by both China and Russia as key asymmetric warfare capabilities designed to strike with both conventional and nuclear warheads through advanced missile defense systems.

“So we’re interested in how the missiles are made, how they fly and, of course, we’ll need targets to shoot at,” the official said.

Congress directed the MDA in 2016 to set up a program focused on hypersonic missile defense. Current efforts include setting up a space-based network of sensors capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic maneuvering missiles.

The glide body is being developed from a three-stage booster prototype built several years ago by Sandia National Laboratories.

The Air Force weapon is called the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, and the Army missile is called the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon. Both could be fielded by 2022.

The Navy conducted a test of its version of the hypersonic missile, described only as Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike Flight Experiment-1, in October 2017. The test utilized what the Navy said were “hypersonic boost-glide technologies.”

The hypersonic missiles can be either gliders that maneuver at speeds of over 7,000 miles per hour after being launched atop another missile or high-speed flight powered by engines using scramjet — supersonic combustion ramjet — technology.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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