Trump Launched a Covert CIA Campaign to Smear China on Social Media in 2019

The aim was to turn public opinion in China and other countries against the Chinese government

Under the direction of then-President Donald Trump, the CIA launched a covert campaign in 2019 on social media to turn public opinion in China against the government, Reuters reported.

Former US officials said Trump’s authorization allowed the CIA to take action in China and in countries where Washington and Beijing are vying for influence. Operations to denigrate China on social media were carried out in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific. The CIA also leaked “disparaging intelligence” to international news outlets to paint China in a bad light.

The former US officials speaking to Reuters did not offer much detail about the social media campaign but said CIA operatives using false identities were spreading narratives about corruption in China and about Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. The officials claimed the actions were a response to China using covert means to spread its global influence.

Reuters said it was unable to determine if President Biden continued the campaign but noted that if a president gives the CIA covert action authority, it carries through administrations. Biden has taken a hard line against China by expanding the US military presence in the Asia Pacific, increasing support for Taiwan, and escalating the trade war and sanctions campaign against China.

Biden’s CIA has also been hyper-focused on China as it established a new spy center dedicated exclusively to the country. CIA Director William Burns has said openly that his agency is working to rebuild spy networks inside China after losing assets in the country over a decade ago.

In response to the Reuters report, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the CIA operations show the US uses “public opinion space and media platforms as weapons to spread false information and manipulate international public opinion.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.