Everybody knows that the Communist party of China is sensitive to criticism. Internal critics have a tendency to disappear; external ones often find themselves silenced. Beijing pursues a policy of ‘elite capture’ — using powerful non-Chinese actors to pursue influence perceptions of China and advance its interests.

Enter Steve Bannon, the former White House senior adviser, who likes the CCP even less than the elites. Bannon has been waging economic war on Beijing for years and is now using his new smash-hit radio show, War Room: Pandemic, to launch endless broadsides against the tyranny and malfeasance of China’s leadership. Bannon has been sharper than almost anyone in seizing the opportunities the pandemic has created to trash China’s global prestige. He calls the COVID-19 crisis China’s Chernobyl and has said that China owes trillions in reparations for spreading the virus and covering it up.

Bannon’s attacks have clearly struck a nerve in Beijing, which has shot back at him directly through its news agencies. China’s Central Television announced that ‘the ranting anti-China vanguard Bannon fears peace on earth’. In a segment, the channel said: ‘Bannon the ranting and stubborn anti-China activist ignores facts and logic, aggressively scapegoats China, fears that there will be peace on earth, and has no moral scruples. This notorious former ‘White House adviser’ even wants to hijack the international community to put China under ‘trial’, this ambition is so inflated that it is the biggest joke on earth’

Beware the dragon, Mr Bannon! At the same time, China Global Television Network also published a rather more subtle propaganda hit against the former executive chairman of Breitbart. This one purported to be a serious piece of independent commentary, but the fact it was published in another state-backed Chinese news outlet rather undermines the sense of objectivity. It was written by Hannan Hussain, who may or may not be ‘a security analyst’ at the London School of Economics, and whose Twitter feed shows him repeatedly defending China and denouncing anti-Chinese sentiment as the wicked work of the far right.

‘Let it be known,’ says Hussain, pompously. ‘Bannon was never a man of the people, let alone a man of peace with Beijing.’

Wait, what? Cockburn never knew that, in order to qualify as ‘a man of the people’, he must first establish himself as a ‘man of peace with Beijing.’ Hannan clearly knows something we all don’t.

Hussain then scorned Bannon’s call for reparations. ‘It is important to note that some of America’s leading academics — a lifelong threat to the likes of Bannon — have called the bluff on Washington’s reparation argument, making it clear that the proposition was a self-manufactured one with no pre-existing mechanism for accountability in existence.’

Got a tip for Cockburn? Email cockburn@spectator.us