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Our Take

A modern Marshall Plan for Ukraine must prioritize civil society and anticorruption, Senior Fellow Josh Rudolph and Amb. Norm Eisen write in a series on this week’s Ukraine reconstruction conference in Berlin. Read part one here and part two here

While China tends to leverage its economic might to influence other countries, Russia emphasizes information operations and political subversion, Co-Director Zack Cooper and Jessica Brandt argue in The Washington Quarterly.

More than 31 percent of Facebook posts and nearly 19 percent of Instagram and Twitter posts from secretary of state candidates promote false narratives about the election, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer and Maya Kornberg find in a joint ASD at GMF-Brennan Center analysis of Midterm Monitor data. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • Dirty bomb: “Dirty bomb” was the most used key phrase in tweets by Russian propagandists for three days after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu alleged that Ukraine planned to use some type of low-power nuclear weapon, which Kremlin-linked accounts say the United Kingdom helped develop and both the US Democratic Party and pharmaceutical companies encouraged.
  • UK prime minister: Russian officials and state-directed media mocked former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss after she stepped down, saying she should be given the “Nobel Prize in economics for the fastest-ever ruining of national finances.” They painted the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, as rich and unpopular.
  • Xi: After Chinese leader Xi Jinping secured a historic third term in power, Kremlin-back messengers praised the “benefits of the cult of personality,” said Xi’s concentrated authority would lead to Chinese support for Russia and a “resolution of the Taiwan issue,” and claimed Xi’s move would bring about a “US-free world order.” 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • National Congress: The ten most used key phrases by Chinese monitored accounts related to the 20th National Congress, with diplomatic accounts sharing a video aggrandizing the Chinese Communist Party, highlighting foreigners with admiration for the party, and promoting Beijing’s positive contributions to global governance. 
  • Hu Jintao removal: Beijing-linked accounts barely mentioned the removal of former Chinese leader  Hu Jintao from the congress, with the exception of an explanation that he was suffering from poor health and an accusation that Western media had distorted the removal. 
  • Anti-Western commentary: Chinese propagandists attacked the West by broadcasting high homicide rates in the United States, juxtaposing Chinese school construction projects with civilian deaths in Iraq, and critiquing the “rules-based international order.” 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Midterm elections face legal challenges: More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year around the US midterm election, primarily by Republicans, seeking to contest rules for mail-in voting, early voting, voter registration, and other election processes. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said,When there’s a great deal of election litigation that needs to be resolved shortly before, or during, an election, that can result in last-minute changes to election processes, which increases voter uncertainty and creates more work for election workers and administrators alike. Such changes can also make it harder to communicate accurate voter information, even when substantial efforts are undertaken by election officials and their partners to explain changes to voting processes.

Germany allows Chinese firms access to port, chip production: The German government agreed to allow the Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO to take a 24.9 percent stake in Germany’s largest port on Wednesday, and, shortly after,  plans to also approve a Chinese takeover of the chip production for the Dortmund-based company Elmos were disclosed. Research Analyst Etienne Soula told the Dispatch,Against the advice of his ministries, security agencies, coalition partners, and allies, Chancellor Scholz decided to push through a deal that will further increase the Chinese state’s control over one of Europe’s largest ports. In addition, reports indicate that the government plans to defy the advice of its intelligence services again in the sale of a chip-making factory. With the EU reassessing its economic dependence on authoritarian states as it painfully wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons, the German decision to deepen trade ties with China seems shortsighted and irresponsible.”

DOJ charges Chinese operatives for obstructing Huawei investigation: The US Department of Justice indicted two Chinese intelligence officers for unsuccessfully attempting to obtain classified information on a federal investigation into a Chinese telecommunications company that reporting has identified as Huawei. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said,This week’s indictments reveal the scope of China’s efforts to interfere in US institutions and threaten the rights of those living in this country. The attempted obstruction charge in the Huawei case is of particular interest because it shows the lengths that the Chinese state—allegedly using its intelligence officers to attempt to bribe a US federal employee—is willing to go at the chance to get a leg up for a Chinese company. These actions reinforce the notion that telecommunications firms like Huawei and major Chinese technology platforms are ultimately also implements of geopolitical power for the PRC.”

In Case You Missed It  

  • A pro-China influence campaign known as Dragonbridge has been aggressively targeting the United States by seeking to sow division and discredit democratic processes ahead of the midterm elections, according to a Mandiant report. 
  • TikTok failed to detect 90 percent of advertisements spreading US election misinformation, according to an NYU-Global Witness report
  • A secretive Isle of Man network managed by the firm Bridgewaters helps Russian oligarchs obscure investments and avoid sanctions, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation. 
  • An Iranian hacker group accused of attempting to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections may try to conduct a hack-and-leak operation against US entities, the FBI warned.
  • Between 2015 and 2022, at least 1,681 state and local entities purchased equipment and services tied to federally banned Chinese telecom companies, including Huawei and ZTE.   
  • A group of 20 Democratic senators urged the Supreme Court to reject a legal argument at the center of a case involving North Carolina voting maps that would give state legislatures unchecked power to set rules for federal elections.

ASD in the News

Hamilton Monthly Report: September 2022. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar, Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer, and Research Analyst Etienne Soula wrote on ASD at GMF’s Interference Matters blog

Russia Wages Winter Information War Against the West. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in Foreign Policy 

Joe Biden Quietly Crushes China’s Tech Ambitions. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman quoted in Newsweek 

Is the future of democracy at stake in the midterms? Head of External Affairs Rachel Dean Wilson interviewed on Newsy

DOJ Charges Chinese Intel Officers over Huawei Investigation. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman interviewed on Newsy

Wolves and word choice: outsiders try to decode China’s 20th party congress. Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in South China Morning Post 

U.K. on Alert as China Taps British Pilots to Help Train for War With West. China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros quoted in Newsweek 

Lettuce Prevails Over Liz Amid Economic Crunch. Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg’s report highlighted in Foreign Policy 

Greece-Turkey tensions remain high as elections loom for Mitsotakis and Erdogan. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas quoted by Yahoo!News 

Cinco verdades sobre las elecciones y los mitos que se crean en torno a ellas (Five truths about elections and the myths that are created around them). The Midterm Monitor featured in Univision

Quote of the Week

Ukraine is the physical security of Europe against any new attack of Russian tyranny. It is Ukraine that can guarantee and will guarantee that Russian revanchism will not break our European home.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech at the International Expert Conference on the Recovery, Reconstruction, and Modernization of Ukraine on October 25, 2022.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.