The Epoch Times, the propaganda arm of the U.S.-backed Chinese cult Falun Gong, has built an unholy alliance among anti-China, anti-communist Republicans, far right domestic terrorists, and Donald Trump by organizing carpet-bombing amounts of unlimited fake news coverage against China, as well as by creating a tsunami amount of Facebook bot pages and YouTube QAnon channels supporting Trump’s reelection campaign and discrediting the Democrats.
By Lee Siu Hin – ActionLA Network
Their hard work has paid-off. Over the past several years The Epoch Times has become one of Trump’s favorites among the White House press corps, gaining access to press conferences while many journalists from the People’s Republic of China have been barred from the U.S. government.
No doubt The Epoch Times became the MAGA-land’s favorite newspaper because their unprincipled and dark “election was stolen” fake news coverage had excited millions of far-right, pro-Trump Republicans across the U.S. resulting in the January 6th, 2021, Washington, DC, Capitol riots that killed five people.
Even more cynical, the signature The Epoch Times’ racist “CCP Virus” fake news, along with massive pro-Trump extremist propaganda, has been one of the factors contributing to the global surge of racist and hateful Chinaphobic and anti-Asian violence.
Their active propaganda influence on anti-science, “no mask” anti-vaxxer movements has been indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of their supporters becoming infected with COVID, and tens of thousands of them dying across the U.S.
Backed by the U.S., most of The Epoch Time’s global propaganda operations still have a Chinese edition targeting the People’s Republic of China and aiming to overthrow the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China. Increasingly, however, they are using the same tactics to enter mainstream U.S. society (their English language edition copies the style of The New York Times), uniting the far-right and supporting its rise around the world on behalf of the U.S. global fascist strategies.
While already discredited and isolated from the mainstream Chinese-American community as a social movement, The Epoch Times Chinese edition still has small pockets of local anti-Communist readers (mainly right-wing immigrants from the Chinese mainland) catering to their hunger for anti-Chinese porn pleasure.
What they’ve done in the Chinese community for the past 20 years is EXACTLY the same as what they have been doing in mainstream American society for the past five.
The rise of The Epoch Times isn’t “new” nor “accidental,” it’s a product of U.S. cold war covert PsyOp actions against other countries, and a brain-child of the U.S. fascist far-right.
Who is The Epoch Times, anyway?
For Chinese-Americans, Falun Gong and The Epoch Times represent the most extreme fringe elements of their community.
The Epoch Times was created by the anti-China Falun Gong cult exiled to the U.S. in 2000 in Atlanta, Ga. For the past 20 years, they have been using massive email spamming and guerrilla marketing to distribute their free newspaper. The Epoch Times originally only published a Chinese edition which they distributed for free in order to put Chinese community newspapers out of business. They ran unprincipled campaigns harassing any opposition to them from the Chinese community, imagining a day when they might force us to accept their dark ideology and to unite under their banner to violently oppose China. However, they have failed; they have been completely discredited in the mainstream Chinese-American community.
Therefore, what The Epoch Times has done for the past several years in the effort to support Trump, help the rise of QAnon, and destroy American democracy is nothing new to us: a case of the U.S. shooting themselves in the foot.
It would be quite naïve for anyone to believe that the all-out PsyOp disinformation campaign against China – including the fake websites, fake social network groups, fake online influencers, fake news, fake videos, vicious Internet hacking and even fake TV signals, massive email bot campaigns, an army of systematically organized online rumor campaigns, harassment and intimidation of individuals and groups who disagree with them – that this whole CIA textbook-type massive campaign could be organized by a small group of amateur Falun Gong volunteers.
One of the reasons to doubt this: the U.S. government had treated them as a legitimate media organization from their inception in 2000 during the Clinton Democratic administration. At that point their wild and deceptive exposes of China, their so-called “coverage” of China, were frequently highlighted by mainstream corporate media such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. They gained White House press access (especially during the Trump-era) while major Chinese media such as China Global Television Network (CGTN) were labeled as “foreign agents” and usually denied press access to the White House.
Most Americans began noticing the true nature of The Epoch Times propaganda in 2019 when it was putting a great effort into supporting Trump and the QAnon conspiracies. It is really stranger then fiction how The Epoch Times has become a pro-Trump propaganda machine in the age of COVID and insurrection.
However, it was not that Falun Gong/The Epoch Times had decided to form an alliance with the right-wing and Trump to achieve the overthrow of the Chinese government’s political goals; instead it was that the right-wing had found that what they had created was useful for pushing their own cynical domestic agenda.
The Epoch Times model can be traced back to the early 1990s when Hong Kong was still a British colony awaiting return to China at 1997. The British and U.S. secretly funded Hong Kong businessman Jimmy Lai, helping him to found the anti-communist media empire Next Media and its newspaper Apple Daily. The newspaper looks like the NY Daily News, a tabloid whose sensational anti-communist/anti-China misinformation is passed off as every day media coverage. Apple Daily is also organizing a smear campaign against left-wing pro-China activists in Hong Kong.
Multiple investigative reports exposed the covert financial and political ties between Apple Daily, Taiwan and the U.S. State Department that had been created for launching the Hong Kong color revolution. Apple Daily gets money and secretly pays bribes to local anti-communist politicians and organizations to act against Beijing and the local Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR) government. Apple Daily was the main covert financier and overt propaganda arm for the so-called Hong Kong Umbrella movements of 2014 and 2019.
Openly The Epoch Times and Apple Daily don’t have any business ties, but many investigative reports have found that they work together closely.
Historically, the U.S. has backed similar far-right cult, anti-communist propaganda machines in the past. The most famous example was the 1980s Washington Times, founded by the Unification Church (The “Moonies”), a South Korean cult secretly funded by Japanese far-right organized crime to support right-wing Reagan Republicans in order to gain a political foothold inside the Beltway.
What makes The Epoch Times different from other traditional right-wing conservative media is their global propaganda capacity. They have been using members of anti-China forces in the Chinese community around the world as a stepping stone to quickly go global. With mysterious “high-up” technological support, they have adopted the tactics of going digital for outreach and organizing movements that carryout direct street actions.
They work tactically and creatively to explore different media and messaging strategies; they hire white news reporters to make their English-language edition look “mainstream” and “professional.” In 2014 their staff reporters, photographers, and designers even won 16 awards at the annual New York Press Association Conference – although the names are similar, don’t mistake this for the New York Press Club.
They seem to have unlimited money to spend on their dark, crazy anti-China propaganda campaigns. The annual budget of their media empire, which includes The Epoch Times, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD), The Beauty of Life (BL), hundreds of Facebook and YouTube front groups, as well as Sun Yuan dance company, amounts to at least $66 million dollars per year.
Many people do not know The Epoch Times runs as a nonprofit organization; their main income comes from newspaper advertisement and subscriptions; their financial fortune has gone up and down over the years.
According to the IRS, The Epoch Times’ 2016 financial record showed revenue of $3.9 million; in 2017 the revenue was $8.1 million – double what it had been the previous year – and it reported spending $7.2 million on “printing newspapers and creating web and media programs.” Most of its revenue comes from advertising and “web and media income,” according to the group’s annual tax filings; individual donations and subscriptions to the paper make up less than 10 percent.
But in 2019 their revenue rose to $15.5 million – it is likely their non-stop anti-Democrat pro-Trump news coverage had attracted many MAGA-supporters who bought subscriptions, enabling it to nearly quadruple its revenue during the first three years of the Trump administration, according to an AXIOS investigation.
New Tang Dynasty’s 2017 revenue, according to IRS records, was $18 million, a 150 percent increase over the year before. It spent $16.2 million.
In late 2019, Facebook banned BL from using fake accounts. By then, Facebook said, the group had spent close to $9.5 million promoting itself, accruing 55 million followers worldwide.
The more glamorous Shen Yun in 2018 reported a profit of $26 million and net assets of $122 million.
These figures are just for their U.S. operations and doesn’t include their several dozen global operations where the totals could run in the hundreds of millions every year.
In comparison to these budgets, the 2018 revenue of Pacifica Radio, the largest and most historically progressive radio network in the U.S. (where I’d worked as an unpaid-producer for 15 years), was around $11.5 million.
Then who is funding Falun Gong and The Epoch Times’ massive multi-million dollar operation in the U.S. and the world? No one knows exactly – they are extremely secretive – but many rumors about it are circulating around the community. One of the speculations by the Chinese media is that Taiwan’s pro-independence faction is a big funder, since Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily are financially connected to them.
Other than John Tang (the founder of the newspaper in 2000) who is chief executive of The Epoch Times and NTD, little else is known about the management of these organizations. Outside journalists are not granted access to the newsroom.
Some investigations found that Steve Bannon had some kind of relationship with The Epoch Times. In 2019, NTD co-produced and aired his docudrama, “Claws of the Red Dragon,” loosely based on the Chinese telecom company Huawei.
In May 2020, the Daily Beast discovered a benefactor named Huayi Zhang on the IRS filing of Universal Communications Network, the nonprofit that operates NTD and part of the Epoch Times media empire. Zhang, who for several years in the 2000s chaired the network’s board, was a principal at Renaissance Technologies, a mysterious hedge fund with many questionable ties, run by Robert Mercer. The link was suggestive, given that Bannon, a one time Mercer ally, has a connection to NTD.
Lee Siu Hin, a Chinese-American immigrant activist from Los Angeles CA, is the founder and national coordinator of China-U.S. Solidarity Network (CUSN), National Immigrant Solidarity Network (NISN), a long-time community, labor, antiwar and immigrant rights activists for grassroots struggle. He’s also a long-time Pacifica Radio KPFK Los Angeles unpaid reporter and producer, war correspondent went to middle-east, Europe, and Africa.