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US anti-propaganda law risks reviving cold war

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Besides trade disputes and geopolitical fights, China and the US might be heading toward or, more accurately, slipping back into an ideological war, after US President Barack Obama quietly signed a counter-propaganda bill into law recently, reported Global Times.

Many observers consider the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act a response to China and Russia's growing soft power. For example, US politicians blame Russia for employing hackers and spreading disinformation to rig the US election.

Although China is only mentioned once in the act, there is no doubt the future rival of the US is included as a target.

US Senators Rob Portman and Chris Murphy, architects of the legislation, insinuated that the billions China spends investing in foreign propaganda efforts are worrying, and claimed that China uses disinformation to seize the initiative in moves such as land reclamation in the South China Sea which "catches the US and its allies off guard."

Ideology used to be a bone of contention in the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, its significance in international relations has been greatly decreased. Peace and development have become the main topics of the world.

Major powers have also cast aside ideology from being an essential element in their interactions, and now focus their attention on the economy and geopolitics.

But ideology has never been abandoned. The end of the Cold War has always been praised by the Western world as a victory for their values.

With this act, the US has, once again, revived the road to an ideological war. To some extent, the US is resurrecting McCarthyism, creating antagonistic emotions in and out of the US. The current will breed more splits in US society and more distrust between China and the US.

To bring up ideological weapons is not a wise choice. It is a deceit by which the US still wishes to contain China's rise. In the past eight years of Obama's administration, we have seen how the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, which has strong ideological implications, has failed to keep China within limits.

The US' launching an ideological war to restrict China's growing influence will only become more detrimental. Ideology shouldn't become a major topic between both sides anymore.

Many practical issues, if observed from an ideological perspective, can never be resolved. China and the US, although facing economic and geopolitical confrontations, still have much common ground in aspects such as counterterrorism, on which both sides can nurture mutual trust. Washington should understand the old mind-set of overwhelming one ideology with another will only lead the world into cold war again.

Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016
This bill expresses the sense of Congress that:
foreign governments, including the governments of the Russian Federation and China, use disinformation and other propaganda tools to undermine the national security objectives of the United States and key allies and partners;
the U.S. government should develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative; and
an important element of this strategy should be to promote an independent press in countries that are vulnerable to foreign disinformation.

The Department of State shall establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response to:
lead and coordinate the collection and analysis of information on foreign government information warfare efforts;
establish a framework for the integration of critical data and analysis on foreign propaganda and disinformation efforts into the development of national strategy; and
develop and synchronize government initiatives to expose and counter foreign information operations directed against U.S. national security interests and advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
When selecting participants for U.S. educational and cultural exchange programs, special consideration shall be given to students and community leaders from populations and countries deemed vulnerable to foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns.

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