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"Become Regular Media"

How Falun Gong Built a Propaganda Machine to Fuel Global Reaction
"Become Regular Media"


In 2019, The Epoch Times — called “one of the [US]’s most successful and influential conservative news organizations”1 — was revealed to have spent over $2 million to influence the US presidential election in support of President Donald Trump. The Epoch Times bought more than 11,000 Facebook ads to support Trump’s reelection and promote pro-Trump conspiracy theories ahead of the 2020 campaign — more than any other source except the Trump campaign itself.2 In fact, the outlet bought so much advertising that it was banned due to repeated violations of transparency rules.

However, the ban on The Epoch Times’ ads proved more posture than substance. Throughout the campaign, the same multimillion-dollar Facebook ads were purchased via dark money groups affiliated with The Epoch Times, such as "MarketFuel Subscription Services." In an even more flagrant violation of Facebook’s political ad transparency regulations, thousands of dollars were spent funneling advertisements to new sock puppet pages titled “Pure American Journalism.”3

At the peak of its political ad buys in April 2019, The Epoch Times and its sister outlets in the Epoch Media Group “combined for around 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, ranking 11th among all video creators across platforms and outranking every other traditional news publisher."4 But even more shocking than the reach of Epoch Media Group’s reactionary “global-scale misinformation machine” is the fringe Chinese religious cult behind it: Falun Gong.5

What is Falun Gong? How did its Epoch Media Group grow to become a global media empire capturing billions of views online? And why has the US government provided millions in funding to the Falun Gong media ecosystem?

The Falun Gong symbolism

Falun Gong: Origins and Beliefs

Li Hongzhi was born6 in 1951 in northeast China’s Jilin province. In 1992, Li quit his job in the security department of a cereal factory to publish the book Zhuan Falun, drawing from Buddhist tradition and the exercise-breathing practice known as qigong. This roughly 250-page “rambling dissertation”7 of Li’s teachings would serve as the foundational scripture for his Falun Gong spiritual movement, also known as Falun Dafa. In Zhuan Falun, Li wrote that he and his followers, called “Disciples,”8 had attained supernatural powers by using his practice to heal diseases, stop moving cars using telekinesis, levitate or even fly.

Within a few years, Falun Gong (in English, ‘Dharma Wheel Practice’) had exploded. Li — regularly depicted9 by his followers as a winged angel descending from heaven — lectured to thousands across China and amassed at least several million Disciples. Within five years of Zhuan Falun’s publication, Li claimed his movement had more than 100 million10 devoted practitioners in China alone. Other Falun Gong sources claim11 it even surpassed the membership in the Chinese Communist Party at one time.

While many Falun Gong teachings emphasize prosaic exercises and meditation, Li — referred to as “Master”12 by his Disciples — also preaches more unconventional teachings. Falun Gong's writings discuss a two billion-year-old nuclear reactor13 hidden in Gabon, supposedly demonstrating the existence of technologically superior and unfathomably ancient cultures. Li has similarly suggested the existence of vast lost cities on the ocean floor with pyramids built by Atlanteans14 tens of millions of years ago.

Oddest of all, in a 1999 interview15 with Time, Li spoke at length about the role of malicious extraterrestrials. He claimed aliens had introduced airplanes, computers and modern science to replace or manipulate humanity. “Aliens have begun to invade the human mind… Aliens have already constructed a layer of cells in human beings,” Li explained, because, “The aliens want the human body…The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter Earth and become earthlings.” Former Falun Gong members report disturbing episodes of Li’s “exorcisms”16 among his followers. It is clear why a journalist for The Atlantic described Li as “L. Ron Hubbard by way of Daoism,”17 given Falun Gong’s similarities with the cult of Scientology and its own eccentric founder.

Falun Gong leader similarities with Scientology founder Ron Hubbard

Beyond the paranormal, Falun Gong also promotes virulent homophobia and racist ideals of segregationism. The Zhuan Falun teaches that homosexuality is a “repulsive…filthy, deviant state of mind”18 and Li has specified homosexuals as the “gods’ first target of annihilation.”19 Racial purity is likewise held as an ideal by Falun Gong and its Master — a supposed purity spoiled by alien interference. Speaking to his Disciples, Li taught20 that race mixing represents an “extraordinarily serious problem” since only racial purity guarantees a place in heaven adding21 that “the way ​​alien beings get human beings to shake free of the gods is to mix the races.” A former member profiled22 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) confirmed that “Falun Gong claims that race mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods,” because, the cult teaches, “when a child is born from an interracial marriage, that child does not have a heavenly kingdom to go to.”

Bizarre pronouncements on alien “race mixing” plots aside, Falun Gong is singularly focused on a much more worldly political objective: regime change in China through the overthrow of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In the late 1990s, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) identified and criminalized Falun Gong as a cult. This resulted in arrests and repression of thousands of Falun Gong members. Li moved to New York and established Falun Gong’s headquarters in a 450-acre compound called Dragon Springs (or “The Mountain”).23 From at least 1999, anti-communism took on a paramount focus within Falun Gong, bringing the organization closer to Western conservative movements and reactionary political allies around the world.

Seeking to both evangelize for Falun Gong and propagandize against communism, Li Hongzhi and his followers converged on the strategic objective of attaining media power worldwide at the dawn of the new millennium. This strategy was summed up in a clear directive Li issued to his believers: “become regular media.”24

Falun Gong protest and the Dragon Springs

“Become regular media"

Falun Gong practitioners have fulfilled their Master’s command.

From the humble origins of The Epoch Times founded from a Disciple’s basement,25 Falun Gong now controls a media and entertainment empire. Its publications achieve billions26 of views online across 22 languages in over 35 countries27 — apart from 10 different print editions — generating28 millions of dollars in revenue. In addition to its media network, film production29 studios, streaming platforms,30 front organizations, art exhibitions,31 and sock puppet32 social accounts connected with Epoch Media Group, Li or his Falun Gong acolytes also directly manage or operate33 several non-profit organizations including the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party and at least two software development companies financed by the United States government. They even run the highly profitable, globetrotting Shen Yun dance troupe.

This curated, multifaceted, and global propaganda apparatus promotes Falun Gong’s spiritual precepts, of course. However, its primary goal is cultivating an audience among far-right political movements in varied national political contexts to amplify its message for regime change in China to receptive audiences. Support from Falun Gong then gravitates toward whichever extreme factions of the right-wing it determines will advance the most hawkish positions on China.

The Epoch Times structure

The inauspicious launch of Falun Gong's media wing is now the stuff of legend among the faithful. In 2000, John Tang, a doctoral student in physics at Georgia Tech and a Disciple of Falun Gong, launched Dajiyuan, the original Mandarin language version of The Epoch Times from his Atlanta basement. Tang retains his position as CEO of Epoch Media Group to this day.

Initially, coverage focused on stories in China from an anti-communist perspective. The Epoch Times grew its unpaid staff in its early days from the Falun Gong faithful, described34 as a “cross between a scrappy media start-up and a zealous church bulletin.” The Epoch Times launched in English in 2003 to counter narratives it considered the result of “CCP’s infiltration efforts.”35 The Epoch Media Group still prominently warns36 that “communist and anti-communist forces are in a cold war,” promising that every subscriber contributes to “freeing America from the snares of communism using its most potent adversary, knowledge.”

John Tang

Most Falun Gong-associated media are simply editions of The Epoch Times molded to the national or linguistic audience of the far-right in a given country. German coverage, for instance, might tail the contours of anti-immigrant rhetoric by the far-right AfD, while the US English language counterpart pedals conspiracy theories pushed by Trump’s allies — all the while incorporating pieces denouncing the PRC, the CPC, and promoting Falun Gong. However, the Falun Gong media ecosystem extends to dozens of other outlets and websites including Minghui, American Essence Magazine, Epoch TV, Epoch Health, New Tang Dynasty Television, Vision Times, TheBL.com and many others. Li simply refers to all Falun Gong-connected outlets and operations as “our media.”37

The sheer number of Falun Gong-directed organizations is staggering, but perhaps none is more unique or profitable than Shen Yun. Launched in 2006, Shen Yun was meant to “target the upper classes”38 with Falun Gong’s political and religious messages through an international performing arts company adhering to a “world-class artistic standard.”39 “You put up ads in poor communities, and that’s like throwing money out the window,” Li cautioned.40 By his own admission, Shen Yun failed to break even for almost a decade.

Only around 2015 did Shen Yun shift strategies, devoting nearly two-thirds of its budget to physical, print, and digital advertising blitzes amounting to about $50 million41 over three years. Ticket sales skyrocketed. By 2018, Shen Yun held $122 million in net assets, amassing $26 million in profit. In 2020, Shen Yun swelled42 to seven dance companies with hundreds of dancers regularly visiting in over 130 cities on at least four continents.

From Shen Yun to The Epoch Times, Falun Gong has thus married tours of elite cultural venues worldwide with massive production of less-than-reputable internet content to build a profitable, globe-striding, class-straddling communications behemoth.

Shen Yun

Cyberwar Against the Great Firewall

Well before The Epoch Times was ever published in English, however, Falun Gong initiated a second front of its combined media and political strategies: cyber warfare in its new Cold War. In 2001, Falun Gong launched its “tech division,”43 known as the Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC). The GIFC proclaims its objective in simple terms, “The [Chinese] Great Firewall will be taken down as the Berlin Wall.”

The Consortium44 includes at least four nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies — Dynamic Internet Technology, Inc. (DIT Inc.), Global Information Freedom, Inc., UltraReach Internet Corporation, and Garden Networks for Freedom of Information Inc. — connected directly to Falun Gong. One of the Consortium’s private companies, DIT Inc., provides “mass mailing services” to both The Epoch Times and international media owned by the United States government such as Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) with roots in the Cold War. “DIT Inc. has send (sic) billions of emails to China for VOA and RFA” the company proudly declares.45

Global Internet Freedom Consortium structure

The Global Internet Freedom Consortium’s founders46 included about 50 computer scientists and engineers drawing from NASA, Microsoft, and Google, as well as academia — nearly all Falun Gong practitioners. These technicians were true believers, so dedicated to the cause that many worked as unpaid volunteers, as operations director Tao Wang conceded.47

By 2002, the same year Falun Gong hackers physically hijacked TV stations across China, the Consortium had its first breakthrough: GIFC went public online with its FreeGate program, a software product allowing circumvention of Chinese internet regulations through a network of encrypted proxy servers.

Broadcasting Board of Governors and the FreeGate Program

The devotion and work of GIFC’s Falun Gong founders attracted more attention from Washington. The US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — an independent US government agency, now rebranded as the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) since 2018 — stepped in to provide “millions of dollars on extra proxy servers for GIFC.”48 Besides supporting Falun Gong’s own communications and political objectives, the funding allowed49 US government outlets such as VOA to circumvent50 Chinese firewalls. Delivery of GIFC’s “billions of emails”51 from these US state media52 sources occurred alongside Falun Gong media such as The Epoch Times, New Tang Dynasty Television, and others — all on Falun Gong software and servers subsidized by the US federal government.

After official US support, GIFC released many other versions of anti-censorship software including UltraSurf, DynaWeb, Garden, FirePhoenix, GPass, GTunnel and Green Tsunami to counteract evolving technology. By 2005, the BBG estimated53 that GIFC had thwarted the PRC’s “Great Firewall” for over 111 million internet users in China or about 10% of the population. A 2010 Harvard University study54 estimated that as many as 1 million users monthly accessed two of Falun Gong's many software products.

These Falun Gong-developed and US government-facilitated programs have also been utilized beyond China55 in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, South Korea, New Zealand, Germany, Myanmar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Tunisia, Cuba, and, especially, Iran. By 2008, GIFC software was in such high demand from Iranian users that they crashed its servers, resulting in the temporary suspension of Farsi services to refocus on Falun Gong’s priority of Chinese targets. In testimony56 to the US Congress, GIFC deputy director Shiyu Zhou bragged Falun Gong’s Consortium technology was responsible for “95% of total anti-censorship traffic” with over 275 million users across the world.

Reactionary activists mobilized to deliver Falun Gong maximum support in the US. Among Falun Gong’s most ardent supporters were longtime anti-communist crusaders Michael Horowitz, a former lawyer in the Reagan administration, and Mark Palmer, a former ambassador, co-founder of the infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and personal speechwriter for both Reagan and Kissinger.

Friends of Falun Gong

In 2000, Palmer co-founded the Friends of Falun Gong (FoFG) with Alan Adler,57 “one of the first Westerners to begin practising Falun Gong.” According to the FoFG IRS Form 990 filings,58 from at least 2004 to 2015, it transferred between $700,000 to $2.9 million per year into Falun Gong organizations including The Epoch Times, New Tang Dynasty TV, Shen Yun, various Falun Gong academies, and the Dragon Springs headquarters of Falun Gong in upstate New York. The FoFG also hosts a massive Capitol Hill rally59 each year in support of Falun Gong in Washington DC organizes political lobbying efforts, sponsors billboards60 and Falun Gong advertising, and issues an annual human rights award.

Horowitz was a key architect of the Federalist Society’s strategy for arch-conservative takeover of the federal judiciary and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and, for his part, led a sustained lobbying campaign to pressure the Bush and Obama administrations to provide tens of millions to GIFC and Falun Gong-affiliated operations. His personal calls reportedly convinced61 columnists and editorial board members from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal to demand additional State Department funding for GIFC.

Throughout the 2000s, Horowitz and Palmer regularly spoke in support of Falun Gong at FoFG’s rallies on the National Mall as well as at anti-communist events convened and sponsored by The Epoch Times. “You are the pathfinders for democracy in China and therefore keepers of the hope for the world and for the 21st century,” Horowitz told62 Falun Gong supporters at a DC rally.

By 2010, despite the Obama administration's hesitation to escalate tensions with the PRC, the State Department called63 GIFC deputy director Shiyu Zhou to offer $1.5 million in direct support. But this official US government financing for Falun Gong’s Consortium was far from enough for Horowitz and his neoconservative allies. Horowitz helped draft a budget earmark in 2008 to award GIFC at least $15 million and claimed in 2010 that the State Department was sitting on an already appropriated $45 million instead of releasing the money to GIFC. Conservative Kansas Sen. Brownback unsuccessfully threatened to delay DOS diplomatic appointments until the funds were released. It would not be the last time Republican officials would threaten US federal agencies on behalf of Falun Gong funding.

Trump Era Consolidation

By the time President Trump took office, Falun Gong enterprises were positively thriving. The Epoch Times and other Falun Gong outlets achieved an international media presence, Shen Yun toured as a lucrative show for the global elite on at least four continents, and the US government was supporting Falun Gong software development as an integral tool to “bring down the Great Firewall” in China.

Yet despite these broad achievements and vigorous Washington lobbying, Falun Gong still operated on the margins of the mainstream US conservative movement. As Trumpism gained steam in the US, hardline anti-China positions and a receptiveness to conspiracy theories crept into the Republican base. Disciples of Falun Gong were ecstatic. “Falun Gong came to see Trump as a kind of killer angel, summoned from heaven to smite the Chinese government,” reported64 The Atlantic. It would not let the opportunity go to waste.

In 2018, The Epoch Times hired Brendan Steinhauser — political strategist and mastermind of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement — to lock in publicity with well-known conservative figures and embed itself within the US extreme right. Steinhauser advised The Epoch Times on how to “break into the broader conservative movement.”65 The paper’s appearances at the infamous Conservative Political Action Congress (CPAC) and interviews with dozens of Republican legislators stem from his work. Quickly, The Epoch Times became a mainstay of the pro-Trump media.

Breand Steinhauser and the Donald Trump campaign connections

Falun Gong curried favor with many of the key figures in President Donald Trump’s political orbit. Infamous neo-fascist Steve Bannon became executive producer of New Tang Dynasty Television’s Claws of the Red Dragon — a hamfisted anti-China docudrama centering on the tech company Huawei. NTD Television then signed Bannon as the US distributor of the film Claws of the Red Dragon and the film premiered66 on the extreme Trumpist One America News Network (OANN). Meanwhile, The Epoch Times conducted67 extended interviews for its “American Thought Leaders” series with Bannon and other figures close to President Trump including his daughter-in-law “Lara Trump, former Deputy Assistant to President Sebastian Gorka, White House Innovation Chief Brooke Rollins, former White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought, Fred Fleitz, former Chief of Staff to National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.” Soon, President Trump and his close advisors were regularly tweeting stories from The Epoch Times.

Steve Bannon and the New Tang Dynasty Television

For Falun Gong, ingratiating itself with President Trump was no doubt good for business and proselytizing, but the relationship was founded on political objectives. Falun Gong assessed Trump’s far-right political movement as a broad opportunity to advance public support for hawkish US foreign policy on China. Aligning Trump administration policy to Falun Gong’s staunch anti-communist, anti-PRC line was more important than bringing the Zhuan Falun to the Republican Party base or selling more Shen Yun tickets. Once again, they saw tremendous success.

Trump took Steve Bannon’s direction in appointing Michael Pack to lead the USAGM (formerly BBG) — the same federal agency that had financed Falun Gong’s GIFC for decades. Bannon wanted68 the USAGM to be run by an anti-communist China hawk, in line with the administration’s foreign policy. Pack was the former president of the conservative Claremont Institute think tank and a right-wing filmmaker. “He’s my guy, and I pushed him hard,”69 Bannon said, referring to Pack. Upon appointment, Pack quickly fired all USAGM leadership accused of soft China coverage and expedited additional funding to the GIFC.

Michael Pack from the Claremont Institute

Soon, however, a whistleblower came forward to report that a “concerted effort to divert funds to the Falun Gong software UltraSurf was a criminal conspiracy” (UltraSurf is another GIFC product, developed by GIFC-member, the UltraReach Internet Corporation). USAGM staff had denied GIFC funding after it had refused federal security audits. It also denied USAGM access to code for its software. Falun Gong allies like Michael Horowitz mobilized70 to speak out in the media, such as Steve Bannon’s talk show, demanding the firing of the USAGM staff in question. Pack himself appeared on The Epoch Times programs, emphasizing the Trump administration's commitment to GIFC funding and to confronting China.

Ultimately, Pack delivered for Falun Gong. Pack first fired71 USAGM leadership who denied UltraSurf funding. Then he announced $1.8 million in funding for UltraSurf and appointed The Epoch Times columnist Roger L. Simon to USAGM’s board just two days before President Biden’s inauguration.

For all the uproar, in February 2021 just after Biden took office, a USAGM official reported72 that a total of just two individuals per month utilized UltraSurf to access VOA or RFA media. It is unclear if this is representative of other GIFC software, but it is far from the 275 million users GIFC claimed in 2008 congressional testimony. Latest reports73 suggest State Department attorneys are still investigating the “criminal conspiracy” alleged by internal whistleblowers to fund the GIFC. In 2023, the US Office of Special Counsel endorsed a report74 concluding that Pack “abused his authority” and “engaged in gross mismanagement and gross waste.”

Post-Trump Success

The Epoch Times’ multimillion-dollar pro-Trump advertising blitz on social media did not flip the 2020 presidential election. However, since his defeat, Falun Gong has held the attention of reactionaries in the US for their loyalty to Trump, committed propagation of gripping conspiracy theories from QAnon to anti-vaxxer myths, and savvy internet marketing. After the January 6th US Capitol riots, then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy demonstrated the US Right’s trust in The Epoch Times by providing75 its columnist full access to Capitol security footage, provided to just three other conservative journalists.

True to Falun Gong, the paranormal takes a front seat in Epoch Media Group stories with repeated references to aliens, supernatural powers, and conspiracy theories. Videos from the New Tang Dynasty (NTD) on YouTube promote the viral QAnon conspiracy while The Epoch Times publishes articles pushing ‘Spygate’ and anti-vaccine theories. Headlines from The Epoch Times like, “3-Year-Old Remembers Past Life as Snake, Gives Verified Details of Encounter With Hunter,”76 demonstrate the quality of its journalism.

On social media, Falun Gong uses simple cute animal clickbait77 to draw an audience. According to The New York Times, Epoch Media Group earned78 4 billion views in one year on Facebook alone simply by publishing 12,062 videos of cute animals linking to Falun Gong-affiliated sites on over 100 social media pages.

With billions of monthly views across platforms reinforcing clear political messaging with incredulous, shocking, or even cute animal clickbait, the Falun Gong media empire has only grown in scale and revenue in years even after the end of an allied Trump presidency.

Epoch Media Group messages

And its growth is hardly limited to the US. In Germany, for example, The Epoch Times has more than doubled its page views and ranks79 in the top ten news sites on social media. From this same German language division of The Epoch Times, reporters admitted that they did not check their facts, instead preferring to rely on and repackage80 stories from “alternative” sources. A report from a British think tank assessed81 that the German edition of The Epoch Times “disseminates anti-democratic false news and conspiracy theories, incites hatred against migrants and indirectly advertises for the [Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)].” Perhaps most damning of all, The New Republic characterized the English version of The Epoch Times as a “far tamer version than its German cousin,”82 where readers consume discredited reports of child-murdering refugees alongside QAnon-adjacent “Pizzagate” and white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theories.

In Canada, Falun Gong’s production studios have received millions in public funding. The Canada Media Fund (CMF), founded by the Canadian government’s Department of Canadian Heritage, pumped83 “the lion’s share of its funding to Falun Gong-related groups like New Tang Dynasty TV.” New Tang Dynasty TV received almost $18 million84 of CMF’s public funding over six years to produce propaganda films such as The Claws of the Red Dragon executive produced by Trump advisor Steve Bannon. CMF was forced to suspend its subsidy85 for Claws of the Red Dragon due to Bannon’s involvement but continues to fund New Tang Dynasty TV and its affiliated studios.

In Australia, Falun Gong-affiliated media directors have climbed to the upper rungs of foreign policy vis-a-vis China. In a scandal for the Australian government,86 Maree Ma, a board member of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations was revealed to have received US government financing for two Falun Gong media operations which she directs: Vision China Times and Decode China. The government’s National Foundation was meant87 to boost relations between Australia and the PRC, managing millions of dollars in grants. Instead, it was revealed that not only did Maree Ma lead both of Falun Gong’s virulently anti-PRC outlets, but that Decode China received88 direct financial support from the US government previously undisclosed by Ms Ma. Even after the former minister and chairman of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations Warwick Smith resigned in the wake of these revelations of US foreign funding, Maree Ma remained on the board at least until 2022.

Falung Gong in India

Meanwhile in India, Falun Gong is only just beginning to make serious inroads. The Art of Zhen Shan Ren, for instance, promotes89 its touring exhibition of Falun Gong paintings across India’s largest cities. Featuring works by more than 60 Falun Gong artists and depicting fantastical spiritual experiences combined with Falun Gong’s anticommunist political messaging, the exhibit has attracted even Bollywood stars and members of the Lok Sabha (India’s parliament) from the ruling far-right BJP party. In another case,90 NTD Television and other Falun Gong-backed media pushed a fake story to circulate widely in India that the Chinese president and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping had been arrested in a coup d’état.

Now, Falun Gong is plotting to expand its influence even further. Published transcripts91 between Li Hongzhi and his Disciples reveal Falun Gong’s drive for a complete global presence. In these sessions, nameless Disciples express their anxiety about Falun Gong’s persistent relative absence in Africa and embarrassment over the lack of Shen Yun performances in Southeast Asia. Master Li’s prescription? An emphasis on the priority of ensuring “our media…are run well” while diversifying their forms.

The Disciples of Falun Gong remain hard at work in pursuit of Li’s mandate to “become regular media,” because as Master Li reminds92 them “people have all been waiting for you to save them.”


Li Hongzhi may still be far from a household name. But Falun Gong commands a dizzying reactionary propaganda empire connected with the extreme right wing from China, Europe, the United States, and beyond.

Less than 30 years have passed since the publication of the Zhuan Falun. In that time, Falun Gong made the strategic decision not simply to grow its base of followers, but to insert itself into anticommunist geopolitics through a disciplined global media campaign.

Falun Gong now advances its political messages on almost every front of news and entertainment media. The right-wing communications infrastructure directed by Falun Gong includes websites in dozens of countries and languages amassing billions upon billions of views, film production studios, print newspaper operations, and even the Shen Yun performing arts tour.

Through its media and targeted political strategy, Falun Gong has long ingratiated itself with different reactionary movements — from the German AfD to the Trumpist US right-wing. Bolstering these global forces of reaction with its media power, Falun Gong hopes to promote and influence their hawkish anticommunism to heighten geopolitical pressure for regime change in a new Cold War on China.

Falun Gong followers

This strategy has paid off. At the behest of lobbying by US far-right operatives in Washington, multiple US government agencies provided open financial support to Falun Gong-affiliated companies from the Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC). For decades, the US government itself has spent millions of dollars equipping Falun Gong for political and media interventions in China.

With the 2016 election of US President Donald Trump — seen by Disciples as “sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party [of China]” — Falun Gong doubled down. It converted its US media operations into a virtual wing of the Trump media landscape. This meant not only working with key political figures of Trump’s political movement like Steve Bannon but also trafficking heavily in the same conspiracy theories beloved by his base. Trump’s support for the success of Falun Gong’s political objectives — both through direct funding for the GIFC and his openly hawkish rhetoric on China — was deemed so valuable that in the 2020 presidential election, Falun Gong-affiliated media were even willing to openly devote millions of dollars in advertising to influence US elections in his favor.

Falun Gong’s outlandish beliefs in aliens and its strange, bigoted Master are so bizarre as to verge on the comedic. However, the political objectives and reach of the organization could not be more serious. Although it was not enough to win a second Trump term, Falun Gong and its web of affiliated organizations have built a global propaganda juggernaut to supercharge reactionary forces around the world, quietly stoking the fires of a new Cold War.

Key Actors:

Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi

Epoch Media Group

Epoch Media Group

Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC)

Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC)

Shen Yun

Shen Yun

Friends of Falun Gong (FoFG)

Friends of Falun Gong (FoFG)