When the Communist Party of China Does Online Information Operations
2015 August 30
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In an August 02 2015 post about the GlobalResearch.ca network of websites I turned up a site in China, 4thmedia.org. This post will repeat some of that information, and build out the Chinese network it is part of.

Agents of Influence vs. Subject Matter Experts
Sites like GlobalResearch.ca and 4thMedia.org are channels broadcasting the work of agents of influence. These agents are influential only to the extent that genuine subject matter experts are silenced, harassed, compromised, slandered - this being a primary function of Kremlin trolls and their ilk. All this activity falls under the rubric of KGB-style Active Measures, is just one part of a broader intelligence project, and is inextricably linked to the associated intelligence services.

“…an independent media organization based in Beijing…" pic.twitter.com/zAQRH9H3AX

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
Individuals involved in such websites will claim to be independent actors, and in some cases they may be - or at least they may have started out as such. But in this world everyone ends up working for someone, eventually. In the present case, deniability is hard to come by.

Rev. Kiyul Chung
The 4th Media project is based in Beijing and operated by Kiyul Chung. Born in 1953 in South Korea, Chung came to the United States in 1980, where he ultimately received his PhD. He is an ordained Methodist minister, though he soft-peddles that now that he's openly in China and working for the Party and State.

The Reverend Kiyul Chung, Tsinghua University, Beijing pic.twitter.com/vy5NfYUieO

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
While in the USA Chung was active as a Korean unification activist, and as such achieved a certain prominence. He appeared twice on CSPAN, in 1999 at a demonstration against the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia, and at a late September 2001 "Rally Against War and Racism." Chung was also featured in a June 2000 Democracy Now broadcast. It is relevant to the discussion that follows to note, re: the Sept. 2001 "anti-war" rally, that behind those post-9/11 demonstrations was International ANSWER, a front of the Workers World Party. I wager there is more than one WWP cadre among the people involved in the websites discussed below. In 2005 Chung returned to South Korea, but within the year he left to accept an academic position in the People's Republic of China, where he has been a "visiting professor" since 2006, first at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, and since 2009 at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. Since 2011 Chung has also been a visiting professor (summers only) at Korea University, Tokyo, Japan.

The 4th Media

The 4th Media, China April Media Group, Tsinghua University, Beijing pic.twitter.com/2SG7wMJTnY

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
4th Media is a project of the China April Media Group at Tsinghua University, and the University's School of Journalism and Communication is quite explicitly an arm of the Communist Party, as the welcome message from the Dean makes clear. Now recall that The 4th Media is a partner organization of GlobalResearch.ca, and Global Research's Michel Chossudovsky, is Chair of The 4th Media's International Advisory Board. Interesting, yes?

Tsinghua University School of Journalism and Communication, Beijing pic.twitter.com/MT2qKfpZ6X

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
Turning back to The 4th Media, it features two sets of links. The top tier include GlobalResearch.ca, Iran's PressTV, the Kremlin's own RT, and SANA, official news agency of Syria's Assad regime. Among the top tier there is only one site with a focus on China, the Hidden Harmonies China Blog. The second tier of links point to two additional China April Media Group websites, 1KoreanNews.com and M4.cn. Links to those sites are presented in Korean and Chinese respectively, but not in English. Note that 4thMedia.org, 1KoreanNews.com and M4.cn are hosted together on a single IP address (211.151.59.136) on a server in Beijing. 4thMedia.org and M4.cn domains are both held by China April Media Group at Tsinghua University.

Hidden Harmonies China Blog

Hidden Harmonies China Blog pic.twitter.com/cq9wwtyHn4

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
Hidden Harmonies presents the PRC's interests and positions in English and wrapped in a cloak of editorial independence that is fatally undermined by its association with 4th Media. The site is operated by an interesting group of semi-anonymous mostly Chinese individuals mostly claiming to reside in the United States. At the head of this group is Allen, a practicing Intellectual Property and Patent attorney in the greater San Francisco Bay area. The project is said to be rooted in the Fools Mountain blog, which in turn was previously known as Blog4China. The About page from hiddenharmonies.org is... interesting.

1koreannews.com

Screenshot of the currently-without-content 1koreannews[.]com site pic.twitter.com/m9mShn3pFG

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
The 1koreannews.com site is curious. There is no content right now, though from the screenshot above there clearly used to be. As noted already, this site shares a server with 4thmedia.org and is linked together with M4.cn. An explanation for the site no longer having content may perhaps have something to do with it being registered in the name of a US resident, one Isaac C. (who may or may not be a kinsman of Kiyul Chung).

M4.cn

Russian-language Chinese news site created then abandoned by China April Media Group under the M4[.]cn domain pic.twitter.com/bJetgUGgjS

— aweisburd (@webradius) August 29, 2015
The M4.cn domain is the oldest, having been registered circa 2004. The site offers up Chinese-language news, a Chinese BBS system, and a Russian-language news site that has not been updated since April of 2013. M4.cn links back to 4thMedia.org.

Conclusions?
Draw your own conclusions. From here it looks like China's idea of online active measures is somewhat similar to that of the Russians. The Chinese don't work the social media space (e.g. Twitter), leaving that to the Kremlin's trolls and other allies. Similar to Russia, we find signs of involvement by former (or even current) Communist cadre operating in the West. The significance of any of this activity depends on your interest and perspective. This particular case is rich with leads for counterintelligence.

© 2015 Andrew Aaron Weisburd