In February 1946, George Kennan, then-deputy chief of mission in Moscow, responded to a request from the Treasury Department to detail the Soviet situation. The USSR had recently declined to take its supposed place in the postwar international order by declining to endorse the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among other things. Kennan's response was as unexpected as it was prescient.
In a telegram that exceeded 5,000 words, now justly known as the Long Telegram, Kennan outlined the character of Stalin's regime: its "neurotic view of world affairs," its "instinctive Russian sense of insecurity," its Marxist-Leninist outlook -- "the fig leaf of their moral and intellectual respectability" -- that formed its fear of "capitalist encirclement" and justified the brutality of the five-year plan, and so on.
Most importantly, Kennan predicted Soviet efforts to destabilize western nations via the exploitation of preexisting domestic conflicts and thereby erode trust in political institutions and processes. Kennan warned:
Efforts will be made in such countries to disrupt national self-confidence, to hamstring measures of national defense, to increase social and industrial unrest, to stimulate all forms of disunity. All persons with grievances, whether economic or racial, will be urged to spelt redress not in mediation and compromise, but in defiant violent struggle for destruction of other elements of society. Here poor will be set against rich, black against white, young against old, newcomers against established residents, etc.
This should sound familiar. China is now evidently adopting this playbook described by Kennan. Through well-timed social media blasts and carefully tailored opinion pieces, Beijing is both spreading its Communist message, (artificially) improving its international image, and exacerbating domestic fissures -- especially racial tensions -- in the American sociopolitical landscape.