In addition to influencing the information Americans receive regarding China, the CCP is increasingly using its leverage to control American speech. When the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team tweeted his support for peaceful protesters in Hong Kong, the CCP announced that Rockets games would not be shown on Chinese TV and pressed others associated with the league, including star players, to criticize the tweet. Under pressure from the CCP, American, Delta, and United Airlines removed references to Taiwan from their websites and in-flight magazines. Mercedes Benz apologized for posting an inspirational quote from the Dalai Lama. MGM digitally changed the nationality of an invading military from Chinese to North Korean in a remake of the movie Red Dawn. In the credits for its 2020 remake of Mulan, Disney thanked public security and propaganda bureaus in Xinjiang, where the CCP has locked up millions of minorities in concentration camps.
The CCP is also gathering leverage over individuals by collecting Americans’ data—their words, purchases, whereabouts, health records, posts, texts, and social networks. This data is collected through security flaws and backdoors in hardware, software, telecommunications, and genetics products (many operated by CCP-subsidized businesses such as Huawei and ZTE) as well as by theft. Beijing hacked Anthem Health Insurance in 2014; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which holds security clearance information on millions of government employees, in 2015; Equifax in 2017; and Marriot Hotels in 2019. In these instances alone, the CCP gathered key information on at least half of all living Americans, including their names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, credit scores, health records, and passport numbers. The CCP will use this data the same way it uses data within China’s borders: to target, influence, harass, and even blackmail Americans to say and do things that serve the CCP’s interests.
The CCP also uses trade to coerce compliance.