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The U.S.’s Strategy of Exporting Ideology over the Internet Will not Change

{Editor’s Note: Qiushi published an article discussing how the U.S. exports ideology over the Internet. Its method of exportation has become a core part of the U.S.’ strategy of “public diplomacy.”

The author Li Yanyan is a Deputy Professor at the Marxism Institute, Beijing Technology Institute and is a Postdoctoral candidate at the Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This article is the result of a research project that the China’s Postdoctoral Science Foundation and the Individual Projects of the Beijing Young Talent Development Program funded.

The following is an excerpt from the article.} {1}

Exporting its ideology is an important part of the U.S. government’s strategic public diplomacy. According to the group that set up the U.S. news policy in 1997, the U.S public diplomacy strategy advances the U.S. national interest through the use of understanding, and through increasing and furthering its influence over the public in foreign countries. John E. Reinhardt, former Director of the U.S. International Communication Agency, pointed out, the nature of strategic public diplomacy is the activity in which the “U.S. government enters into the international ideology market.” The core of strategic public diplomacy is exporting ideology.

During the Cold War, U.S. government actively carried out its public diplomacy on a large scale. It conducted one-directional information dissemination to the former Soviet Union, took over control of its domestic opinion, and successfully destroyed its people’s confidence in their own development path and their political system. (The ideology campaign) played a very important role in helping the U.S. to win the Cold War. The success of the psychological warfare made this once mighty superpower collapse under the collective silence of its people.

Public diplomacy, as the core of a country’s strategic foreign policy, often adopts an inevitable tool – “media” – to exercise influence over the target country. In today’s world, the U.S. has gained superior advantages in Internet technology and management. It has built a practical foundation while forming a strategic advantage in exporting its ideology. Just like the relationship of computer software and hardware, public diplomacy, which has the goal of controlling the public mind, has worked along with the Internet. Together, they leverage each other’s power. It has thus enabled the U.S. to play a decisive role in guiding the world’s ideology and opinions.

At the end of the 20th century, the U.S. exported its ideology mainly through the U.S. Information Agency. This was the first stage of the U.S.’ exporting its ideology over the Internet, but it was not yet the real Internet diplomacy. The U.S. only used the Internet to collect, transmit, and publish information. Its huge social and political impact had not yet been fully displayed.

The second stage started when the U.S. government officially endorsed exporting its ideology over the Internet. In 2001, after the U.S. suffered the 9/11 terror attack, everyone was pondering, “Why did the world hate the U.S?” People quickly attributed (this attitude) to a lack of effort in U.S.’ public diplomacy. Therefore public diplomacy policy gained unprecedented attention. During that historical juncture, public diplomacy and Internet diplomacy merged together. U.S. ideology was presented to the world through Internet media such as government, business and news websites.

Using social media as its base was the third stage of the U.S. exporting its ideology. It was when Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks emerged and experienced an unprecedented growth in the world. Hence the way that the U.S. exports its ideology also changed. An article that Deutsche Welle published on April 7, 2011, titled, “VOA: The Internet Is the Main Channel through which to Reach the Chinese Public,” made a prediction that the U.S. would “focus on the digital front to export its ideology to China.” The Internet is the ideology platform that the U.S. really wants to use to take control.

In recent years, the U.S. has used the Internet to speed up its influence on China to move it toward democracy. The U.S. has launched a campaign of public opinion, shifted the political-based discourse towards public opinion-based discourse, and established a system for (the Chinese public) to recognize U.S. political values.

As globalization has progressed, the U.S. government has devoted efforts for public diplomacy to adapt to the transformation of the information culture. It took advantage of the Internet technology and broke through the traditional diplomacy model which was centered on the country. It even suggested copying Starbucks’ business model and building a future diplomacy model that is “decentralized with flat management.” Therefore exporting ideology towards multiple centers and over multiple levels has become an important strategic task for the U.S. government. The Obama administration called the new approach, which uses the Internet and new media technology to export ideology, Public Diplomacy 2.0. Its goal was to spread the U.S. voice around the world.

The Internet that uses social media has become an important ideology battleground both domestically and internationally. In fact, the focus of U.S.’ propaganda aimed at China has been on the new media such as Blog, Weibo, and podcasting. There have been indications that China has become the main global target for the U.S. to export its ideology. Recent frequent ideology and media exchanges on the Internet suggest that the U.S. government has used stock buyouts and training of spokespersons to control our Internet platform. Its intention to guide the media trend has become more and more obvious, which has resulted in a serious threat to the security of our ideology.

From the development of the ideology battle that the anti-China hostile forces incited, one can see that the enemy on ideology over the Internet has taken shape. It consists of a foreign command center, domestic bases, social celebrities, and an “Internet water Army” (paid online commentators). Through Internet media channels, the U.S. anti-China forces and their representatives have taken advantage of Internet information fragmentation. They have selectively used the rich and long Chinese history while ignoring the great achievements made in China today. They have tried to incite a separation between the (Communist) Party and its people and have become the key troublemaker for the worsened relationship between the Party and the public. Moreover, the U.S., via the use of Internet media, hoped to form pro-U.S. social organizations in China and develop them into a political force that represents the U.S.’ political interests to further influence China in its political advancement and social development.

Through fighting over the media platform and forming its media channel, the U.S. has been able to spread its ideology rapidly over the Chinese Internet and has even tried to guide the media discourse. The way it worked was, “We will not force you to do anything, but we will plant (our ideology) in your heart, enter into your sub-conscience, and eventually make you do something.”

It is not difficult to conclude that, by looking back through history, the strategy of the U.S. exporting ideology has entered into its maturity and has gained tremendous economic and political interest. Some U.S. officials have even directly pointed out that “the decisive factors that will determine the fate and future of U.S. capitalism are not through military force but through ideology.” “For socialist countries to jump into the arms of the West, it all starts with the Internet.”

Exporting ideology over the Internet has become an important strategy for the U.S. government.

{1} Qiushi, “The U.S.’s Strategy of Exporting Ideology over the Internet,” June 23, 2017.