“The 50 Cent Army: Unveiling China’s Digital Influence Operations”

China’s Strategy for Global Digital Dominance.

“Public opinion warfare,” “psychological warfare,” and “information warfare” are all terms that describe the same overarching strategy that the 50 Cent Army represents: the attempt to influence online discourse and perception.

China is not alone in using this tactic; several international organisations and governments have faced accusations of such tactics, albeit to varying degrees.

I know you are singing “Candy Shop” to yourself and immediately thinking about American rapper 50 Cent. You already know that Nutella is the best, and while I adore music and candy, this is a story about much more essential things.

I believe Generation Z understands trolling, but for those of us who are older, please allow me to define the phrase. and especially in relation to social media.


The term “trolls,” derived from a fishing strategy used by cyber thieves to identify victims, refers to those who use their freedom of expression online.

Trolling is the deliberate upsetting of others through online posts or comments.

It also refers to the act of purposefully insulting someone by making a disparaging remark online.

Trolling is a sort of cyber bullying in which someone posts unpleasant or harassing comments on social media with the purpose of dehumanising or degrading the target.

Trolling has a significant influence on victims’ mental health, with worry and despair being some of the results.

Trolls thrive on attention.

What if the government employs trolls?

I believe you have already seen or received several GIFs or personal comments on social media.

They usually go by pseudonyms like “tz_briley_554”, “leonid142908,” or “truth-seeker54,” but if you look closely, they don’t have any followers.

However, with closer examination and more enquiry, you will discover that this question is not that harmless.

This tale is about “trolls” from China

Internet trolls from China are a more powerful force than most people realise, and they continue to play an important role in the CCP’s aim of acquiring influence in global discourse.

The “50 Cent Army” is a group of state-sponsored Internet pundits believed to number between 500,000 and two million.

The story behind the moniker, which claims that the government donates 50 renminbi cents for every pro-China post, has long been debunked.

The Chinese national army is summoned to take part in endless parades and public celebrations at every major public event in China. I believe you have witnessed at least one Chinese military march.

However, there is another type of army operating on the internet.

Wu mao, which translates to “50 cents” in Chinese, is a common slur online, and official state media has recognised the existence of government operatives posing as ordinary, patriotic internet users.

Every year, Chinese authorities publish 448 million fraudulent comments on social media.

They are not the only ones dealing with it, either.

It has long been suspected that the Chinese government employs up to two million people to covertly insert a significant number of false texts, including pseudonyms, into a steady stream of social media posts, making them look to be the true ideas of ordinary people.

Let us be clear from the start: the “50 cent army” is not, as the stereotype suggests, a group of young Chinese people typing furiously in their parents’ rooms and basements; rather, it is a group of government bureaucrats who work long hours to fill positions purportedly held by regular citizens in unrelated fields such as taxation or sports management.

These state-paid operatives usually work full-time, participate in ongoing debates and initiate new ones, write articles and posts to influence public opinion, and receive daily instructions from authorities. They may arrive before the news is released and, on occasion, respond to the occurrence.

These are not the typical trolls.

They mostly fill the internet with reasonably hopeful posts, rather than discussing imprisoned dissidents or maritime disputes.

According to the analysis, there are very few positions held by members of the 50c party in the Chinese government that are subject to criticism or debate.

According to the study’s authors, the enormous clandestine operation’s purpose is to continually redirect public attention, alter topics, and encourage the public to support the incumbent government.

Similar tactics for manipulating public opinion are used in Russia, and American officials are also familiar with them. In the United States, presidential candidates routinely accuse one another of utilising online troll armies throughout the campaign.

Hillary Clinton fans openly boasted about their admiration for social media pundits who would ‘quickly reply to severe criticisms and phoney stories’ with $1 million.

Public opinion redirected

Public opinion shift is not a fresh notion. It is a public policy that is implemented by other countries in addition to China.

In truth, 50 Cent’s army is just a platoon of a much larger propaganda machine.

All those encouraging posts reflect the milieu that bans most Chinese citizens from legally accessing social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as news organisations like Bloomberg and The New York Times.

While pro-government posts from 50 Centres may divert viewers’ attention, other sections of the Propaganda Department work hard to filter out content that some find objectionable or contains specific keywords.

When the “50 Cent Army” initially formed in the early 2000s, it dominated online debate in chat rooms, message boards, and comment areas beneath articles.

Their techniques may appear out of date, given that many millennials are continuously connected to the Internet via their watches and phones.

Weibo, a popular Chinese social media tool, has enabled everyone to converse online in real-time.

Disinformation and influence campaigns

Currently, the bulk of observers regard the “50 cent army” as an oddity on the Chinese Internet, more entertaining than useful.

However, as the CCP continues to aggressively spread propaganda on foreign social networks, its trolls pose a severe threat to global political stability, economic security, and personal safety.

The truth is that party-affiliated trolls are no longer just an irritant, and their attacks are likely to grow in size and frequency.

Understanding their size, strategy, and goals will be critical to creating a successful response as the CCP expands its public opinion campaign to encompass overseas audiences.

First, contrary to popular thought, the CCP is significantly more involved in shaping Chinese public opinion online.

The CCP has assembled an army of over twenty million part-time “network civilisation volunteers” as well as two million paid commentators, with the objective of amplifying content that supports its rule.

The majority of the volunteers are college students who were assigned by the censorship bureau to oppose “negative” information in their spare time, such as reporting on human rights violations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and feminist activism.

They are young but educated, with an average age of only nineteen, and are willing to defend the party’s doctrine against those who disagree with it.

China’s “50 Cent Army” spent the first ten years of its existence primarily attempting to influence how the general population perceived social and political concerns specific to China.

Social media platforms continue to be their primary source of information in China

However, in recent years, the CCP has begun to rely on its army of trolls to launch consumer boycotts of international corporations doing business in China, as well as harassment campaigns against foreign researchers.

Finally, trolls are just one component of the CCP’s wider propaganda machine, which is being built to expand China’s influence in global discourse.

Chinese trolls have recently appeared on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, even though early interviews with the so-called “50 Cent Army” indicated that they were rarely, if ever, published on international social media platforms.

They have begun scaling the significant Wall more frequently with Beijing’s permission, speaking out on issues of significant importance to the Chinese government.

Their specific purpose is to influence foreigners’ attitudes on topics such as COVID-19 history, politics, and economics.

After hearing this story, do you have a different take on social media comments?

Do you feel Facebook is more than just sharing stories with family and friends, Instagram is more than just beautiful images, YouTube is more than just interesting videos, and Twitter is more than just news and its accuracy?

This post was written by Mario Bekes