Sen. Rubio top target of Chinese disinformation campaign
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fl. has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the Chinese Communist Party.
Rubio outlined his stance on China in March of this year in a speech to the Heritage Foundation.
During his speech, he took China to task for its human rights record, trade policies, theft of US intellectual property, and increasingly belligerent foreign policy.
He went so far as to call China the “most formidable near-peer adversary our nation has ever faced.”, surpassing even the Soviet Union at its peak.
Rubio’s tough stance against China has made him a top target of a Chinese disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting critics of the Chinese Communist Party.
Jonas Drosten, a Twitter personality suspected to be fake, attempted to link Senator Rubio and conservative political strategist Steve Bannon to Adrian Zenz. Zenz is a famed anthropologist who studies Xinjiang internment camps and the ongoing Uyghur genocide, making him a prime target of the Chinese government.
Drosten forged a letter that provided evidence that Rubio and Bannon were financing Zens through the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, where Zenz is a senior fellow.
Twitter accounts with large followings, such as “Greg Gadliardi,” a supposed journalism teacher with over 100,000 followers, amplified the disinformation campaign.
Huge amount of money can buy the soul of a German scholar. Marco Rubio and Stephen Bannon offered financial support to Adrian Zenz via Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.@SpokespersonCHN @gZclW78FYo7XYMO @chinaforeign0 @AmbQinGang#AdrianZenz #Xinjiang pic.twitter.com/LsOwa9goFx
— Greg Gagliardi (@greggagliardi) December 10, 2021
Senator Rubio offered the following statement in response to the disinformation campaign against him and Bannon.
“I am not surprised that I was targeted by China once again,” Mr. Rubio told The Washington Times in a statement. “It is important to expose these networks. Even sloppy efforts can cause confusion, and you can be certain the Chinese Communist Party will continue to slander its opponents in increasingly sophisticated ways.”
Rubio, for his part, has not been deterred by the campaign and focused heavily on China’s military aggression against Taiwan as early as yesterday.
Over the next 3 days #China’s temper tantrum over #Taiwan will remind us that how while civilian leaders at @DeptofDefense focused on transgender rights,hosting drag queen shows & enforcing vaccine mandates,Beijing was focused on new missiles & launching two aircraft carriers pic.twitter.com/3kpXiiqxAU
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 4, 2022
Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm investigating the attacks against Rubio, said that the campaign was part of a more significant effort to conceal the Chinese government’s alleged crimes against the Uyghur population.
“The campaign leveraged fabricated content designed to discredit opponents who have been critical of the Chinese government, including Chinese businessman Guo Wengui (Miles Kwok) and German anthropologist Adrian Zenz — known for his research on Xinjiang — and China’s reported genocide against the Uyghur population,” Mandiant said in its report.
While China’s attacks against Zenz and US politicians have raised some red flags, Dakota Cary, a China analyst at the Krebs-Stamos Group, said that the effort was a poor attempt to influence US conversation that US cybersecurity experts easily exposed.
“The campaign observed by Mandiant is another example of how China is unable to influence cultural narratives with inauthentic accounts and forged documents,” said Cary, who was not involved in Mandiant’s research.
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