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Inside China's plans to hijack minds in hidden 'cognitive war' against the West


The brain “is the battlefield of tomorrow”, according to James Giordano, an expert in biosecurity. This fact is certainly not lost on the Chinese Communist Party.

Recent reports clearly show that the CCP is determined to conquer the cognitive domain — not just domestically, but globally. To control the mind is to control the person. In short, control enough minds, and you can control the world.

Giordano, a professor of neurology and director of the Neuroethics Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, told the Daily Express US that the concept of cognitive warfare “entails and obtains” two dimensions.

“The first,” he says, “engages an understanding of, and means of access to neurological systems and mechanisms that have been identified as operative and functionally participatory in both individual and group cognitive (and emotional) processes.” In basic English, Giordano means hijacking the human brain.

China cognitive warfare

Influential Chinese figures have openly discussed the merits of ‘psyops’ against the West (Image: Getty)

The second dimension, notes Giordano, the director of the Institute for Biodefense Research in Washington D.C, is “more of an indirect or implicit approach,” that employs a variety of nefarious methods “to affect individual and collective perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors.”

This can involve the use of “various signs and symbols, content, constructs and contexts of narrative, and even direct environmental and ecological manipulation,” says Giordano, who has dedicated an inordinate amount of time to researching and discussing the future of cognitive warfare.

The second dimension could involve the use of deepfakes and the indirect manipulation of popular apps, such as TikTok. Interestingly, although TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, it is banned in China.

Giordano warns that apps like TikTok may increasingly be used to “leverage influence in narratives.” TikTok has repeatedly denied that the company is in any way influenced by the Chinese government – and does not allow the CCP or People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to interfere with its product.

China’s ‘cognitive warfare’ strategy

Chinese theorists have described the importance of cognitive warfare in great detail, discussing the many ways in which public opinions can be manipulated through psychological means. The great Sun Tzu, a man who knew a thing or two about winning wars, spoke about the possibilities of conquering enemies’ minds without ever having to resort to physical violence. Exactly 20 years ago, the People’s Liberation Army, the CCP’s principal military force, outlined the “three battles” that must be won.

The first involved (and still involves) public opinion warfare. In other words, influencing domestic and international debates and talking points. The second involves the aforementioned psychological warfare: the need to shape our subjective experiences and control the various narratives that we consume. The third aspect involves legal warfare. Specifically, gaining international support and recognition through legal means. For example, signing treaties with other countries, and influencing major organizations like the UN, WHO and BRICS.

Chinese PLA troops

China is fighting with the West on several fronts (Image: Getty)

In recent times, the CCP has dedicated more time to psychological warfare. In 2020, the Chinese academic Guo Yunfei wrote a compelling piece that described conquering the enemy “without fighting.” Targeting the brain, he argued, should be considered the military’s prime focus.

Yunfei’s advice came around the very same time the CCP unveiled its new military strategy: “intelligentized” warfare. In simple terms, this new form of warfare marries traditional forms of cognitive warfare with the emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI). Right now, China is leading the AI race.

China, according to Giordano, will use AI “to recognize definable patterns in the semantics, semiotics (ie- images and symbols), context, and applications of information in ways that affect various (US and Western) collective groups’ beliefs, emotions, values, decisions and actions”.

“The more data that can be gathered,” he says, “the greater the disruptive influence.”

With arguably the biggest election in US history taking place in little over a year from now, we should expect China’s AI operations to increase in intensity.

Giordano sees China as a major player in the battle for Americans’ minds. “At present,” he says, “China maintains considerable dedication to the neurocognitive sciences, with both explicit and implicit direction toward the disruptive uses of the science and technology, in a variety of ways that leverage Chinese capabilities, and hegemony — economically, environmentally, as well as in intelligence and military scenarios that afford national power on the international stage.”

Xi Jinping at CCP conference

China will be employing dystopian tactics against the West – and likely vice versa (Image: Getty)

Moreover, adds Giordano, “it is important to remember that China’s gross domestic product is second only to that of the US; and that a considerable fraction of China’s GDP is devoted to cutting edge science and technological developments, with particular emphasis upon integrative scientific convergence that enables the conjoinment of physical, natural, and social scientific disciplines towards defined ends aimed at developing methods and tools with broad capability and affect.”

“China’s increasing scientific and technological ascendancy on the current world stage” should concern decision-makers in the US and beyond, he suggests.

A mind, we’re told, is a terrible thing to waste. Again, this fact is not lost on the CCP. If Beijing has its way, no minds will go to waste. More specifically, no American minds. Through sophisticated psyops, and supercharged AI systems, China looks likely to exploit the West in ways that were once reserved for the pages of dystopian sci-fi novels.

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