Two years into office, U.S. President Donald Trump authorized the CIA to launch a clandestine campaign on Chinese social media aimed at turning public opinion in China against its government, according to former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the highly classified operation.

Three former officials said that the CIA created a small team of operatives who used bogus internet identities to spread negative narratives about Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government while leaking disparaging intelligence to overseas news outlets. The effort, which began in 2019, has not been previously reported.

During the past decade, China has rapidly expanded its global footprint, forging military pacts, trade deals and business partnerships with developing nations.