China’s Advancing Efforts to Influence the U.S. Election Raise Alarms

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China has adopted some of the same misinformation tactics that Russia used ahead of the 2016 election, researchers and government officials say.

Covert Chinese accounts are masquerading online as American supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, promoting conspiracy theories, stoking domestic divisions and attacking President Biden ahead of the election in November, according to researchers and government officials.

The accounts signal a potential tactical shift in how Beijing aims to influence American politics, with more of a willingness to target specific candidates and parties, including Mr. Biden.

In an echo of Russia’s influence campaign before the 2016 election, China appears to be trying to harness partisan divisions to undermine the Biden administration’s policies, despite recent efforts by the two countries to lower the temperature in their relations.

Some of the Chinese accounts impersonate fervent Trump fans, including one on X that purported to be “a father, husband and son” who was “MAGA all the way!!” The accounts mocked Mr. Biden’s age and shared fake images of him in a prison jumpsuit, or claimed that Mr. Biden was a Satanist pedophile while promoting Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

“I’ve never seen anything along those lines at all before,” said Elise Thomas, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit research organization that uncovered a small group of the fake accounts posing as Trump supporters.

Ms. Thomas and other researchers have linked the new activity to a long-running network of accounts connected with the Chinese government known as Spamouflage. Several of the accounts they detailed previously posted pro-Beijing content in Mandarin — only to resurface in recent months under the guise of real Americans writing in English.

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