Earlier this week we learned that the spurt of social media posts in March 2020 which espoused the upcoming lockdown of the entire country by the Trump Administration may have had the foreign-hand of China to thank for the wide distribution.


The Joint Task Force National Capitol Region (JTF-NCR) was activated in mid-March 2020. All involved within the WDC beltway would understand this is routine in the midst of crisis. The purpose of the taskforce is straightforward: to evacuate the government leadership to ensure continuity of government should there be a need.

This preparation provided China with the grist for their disinformation mill, and they wasted no time in executing their messaging in order to sow distrust within the U.S, as well as with other countries.

The April 2020 Newsweek piece, “Secret Military Task Force Prepared to Secure the Capitol., provided additional fodder to the China troll army, as speculation on the purpose of JTF-NCR was shared.

China efforts abroad to point fingers at the U.S.

The U.S. intelligence community acknowledges, according to NBC, COVID-19 could have been present in a Wuhan biolab, as we discussed previously in “Is COVID’s point of origin the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” China continues to vehemently deny that the point of origin was a lab, sticking to their guns that the Wuhan Seafood Market is the point of origin.

In mid-March, Chinese TV broadcasting to the Middle East in Arabic, accused Fort Dietrich Biological Weapons lab had failed to prevent the loss of the COVID pathogen. And while the lab is involved in COVID research as part of the greater U.S. Army efforts to come up with a therapeutic, there is no evidence that the lab was involved in research involving COVID. Indeed, it was not until the third-quarter of 2019 that the CDC allowed the lab to re-engage in biological research within its sensitive lab.

On April 17, NBC News noted how China’s continued efforts to adjust the narrative surrounding the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Specifically, NBC noted China’s dropping messages which point the finger at U.S. either as a bioweapon or a disease spread by U.S. soldiers. Their piece included footage from Chinese television where the anchor points to Italy as the source of COVID-19 prior to it arriving in Wuhan.

Saving Face

Numerous Chinese language accounts doubled down and shared the stellar response which the Chinese took from January to March and beyond in addressing the virus outbreak. According to John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, China is hoping to have the world look to them as the leading entity in solving the COVID-19 pandemic, in comparison to that of the west.

In the March 2019 report from the Department of State, “Weapons of Mass Distraction Foreign State Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age (pdf)” the portion on China minces no words. They assert that China’s efforts are designed to influence economic, political and foster personal relationships.

The continued expansion of the ‘great firewall’ is tacit acknowledgment of the fear of the deleterious effect an unencumbered western social media will have on the Chinese Communist Party to control the narrative on any topic of import. That said, while Facebook may not be present in China, State points out that China spends enormous sums ($5 billion in 2018) on ads in Asia as they attempt to shape perspective.

None of this is really a surprise as China struggles to save face as the world looks to the country for answers to very hard questions. China would much rather have the world think the United States was about to impose martial law than to have their own actions dissected.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com