China’s Echoes of Russia’s Alternate Reality Intensify Around the World

When Twitter last week issued a warning message over a Russian government post denying civilian killings in Bucha, Ukraine, Chinese state media rushed to its defense. “Twitter censored famfa_russia’s statement on #Bucha,” wrote Frontline, a Twitter account affiliated with CGTN, China’s official English-language broadcaster.

In an article in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, it was revealed that the Russians had offered specific evidence to prove that lewd photos of corpses on the streets of Buchanan, a suburb of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, were fraudulent.

A party television station in Shanghai said the Ukrainian government had created a “terrible glimpse” of sympathy in the West. “Naturally, such evidence would not be admissible in court,” the report said.

Just a month ago, the White House warned China not to expand Russia’s campaign to spread false information about the war in Ukraine. Despite renewed condemnation of Russia’s recent killings and other atrocities in Bucha, China’s efforts have intensified in some ways, contradicting and disputing the policies of NATO capitals.

The result has been to create an alternative reality of war – not only for the consumption of Chinese citizens but also for a global audience.

The propaganda has challenged Western efforts to isolate Russia diplomatically, especially in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, which is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and distrust of the United States.

“Russia and China have a long history of mistrust and hostility towards the West,” said Brett Schaefer, an analyst who tracks misinformation for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a non-profit group based in Washington. “On Ukraine, it is a level above that – only to the extent that they have parroted some very specific and in some cases very distant claims from Russia.”

China’s campaign, eager to promote a peaceful resolution, has further undermined the country’s efforts to present itself as a neutral actor in the war.

In fact, its diplomats and official journalists have become fighters in the information war to legitimize Russia’s claims and defame international concerns over what constitutes war crimes.

Since the war began, they have parroted the Kremlin’s justifications for it, including President Vladimir V. Putin claims he was fighting the neo-Nazi government in Kiev. On Twitter alone, they have used the term “Nazi” – which Russia uses as a railing cry – to protect democracy more often in the six weeks of the war than six months ago, according to a database created by the Alliance.

In an example on Wednesday, an official with the Chinese Foreign Ministry Doctor tweeted a photo The Nazis are seen displaying a swastika flag next to the flags of Ukraine and the United States. “Surprisingly, the US stands with the neo-Nazis!” The official, Li Yang, wrote about the image, which featured the neo-Nazi flag instead of the original American flag.

The timing and themes of the leading themes in the coverage of the countries suggest, or at least a shared view of the world and the pre-existing role of the United States in it. China’s attacks on the United States and NATO alliance, for example, now draw close attention in the Russian state media with those blaming the West for the war.

Sometimes, even words in English for a global audience – are almost identical.

After YouTube Restricted RT and Sputnik, two Russian television channels, both for content “reduce or minimize well-documented violent incidents” RT And Frontline Accused of hypocrisy on stage. They met with President George W. Bush. Bush joked about weapons, drones and the assassination of former Libyan leader Colonel, using similar videos of former U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Muammar al-Gaddafi.

In another example, the same accounts show Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s video was used. Warned in 1997 that NATO’s expansion to the east could provoke a “violent and hostile” reaction from Russia, suggesting that Mr. Putin’s decision to go to war was justified.

China’s efforts have made it clear that the White House’s warning did little to impress Beijing. Chinese propagandists have instead intensified their efforts, expanding not only the Kremlin’s broad views on the war but also some of the most blatant lies about its conduct.

Mr. Said Schaefer. “If anything, we’ve seen them double down.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on China’s support for Russian misinformation.

While the extent of any direct collusion between Russian and Chinese over war propaganda remains uncertain, the roots of cooperation in international media outreach extend for nearly a decade.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, on his first foreign trip to Moscow in 2013, promised to deepen ties between the Russian and Chinese state media. Since then, numerous state media outlets in both countries have signed dozens of pledges to share content.

Sputnik alone has signed 17 agreements with major Chinese media. In 2021, his articles were shared more than 2,500 times by major Chinese media, Vasily V. According to Pushkov, Rosia Segodanya, a state-owned company that owns and operates Sputnik.

The two have also taken other cues from each other.

In mid-March, after Russia Today began using Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s clips to support the idea that the United States was developing biovapoons in Ukraine, Chinese state media also began to pick on Mr. Carlson’s broadcast.

On March 26, Shri. “It turns out that our government has been funding biolabs in Ukraine for some time,” Carlson was quoted as saying in a news broadcast on China’s flagship night. The next day, the English-language channel, CGTN, reiterated Russia’s claim that the lab was connected to the laptop of Hunter Biden, the son of the American president.

The Russian and Chinese state media have also been increasingly focusing on the views of a similar group of internet celebrities, pundits and influential people, who have been featured in their shows as well as in YouTube videos. One of them, Benjamin Norton, is a journalist who claimed that a US government-sponsored uprising broke out in Ukraine in 2014 and that US officials installed the leaders of the current Ukrainian government.

He first explained the conspiracy theory on RT, although it was later picked up by Chinese state media and tweeted by accounts like Frontline. In a March visit with Mr. Norton, the Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, Trumpett as a special, he said the United States, not Russia, is responsible for Russia’s aggression.

“Regarding the current situation in Ukraine, Benjamin said that this is not a war caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but a war planned and provoked by the United States in early 2014,” said an anonymous CCTV narrator.

At times, China’s information campaigns appear to contradict the country’s official diplomatic statements, undermining China’s efforts to reduce its ties with Russia and its brutal aggression. On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called Bucha’s pictures “disruptive” and called on all parties to “exercise restraint and refrain from making baseless allegations.”

Just a day earlier, Chen Weihua, the vocal and prolific editor of the China Daily, which is owned by the Chinese government, did just that. He retweeted a widely shared post stating that Bucha had “not a single piece” of evidence of the massacre and accused the West of “inciting emotions, demonizing opponents and committing atrocities to prolong wars”.

Mr. Chen is a strand of a vast network of diplomats, government-controlled media, and state-backed pundits and influencers who have expanded China’s domestic narrative about the conflict on foreign platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. At the heart of his message is that the United States and NATO, not Mr. Putin is responsible for the war.

A political cartoon, shared by state media and Chinese diplomats, in which the European Union was kidnapped by Uncle Sam and linked to a tank with a NATO flag. Other, st. Petersburg, Russia, shows a hand with stuffed stars and bar sleeves on the back of an EU puppet with a spear mark.

Other images depicting the European Union as an ally of the United States. Xi of China and the European Union, in which Europe called on China to break Western sanctions or not support Russia’s war.

Maria Rapnikova, a professor of global communications at Georgia State University who studies information campaigns in China and Russia, said both countries have a “shared vision of offending the West” that drives nationalist sentiment at home. At the same time, shared messages resonate globally, especially outside the United States and Europe.

“It’s not a coherence but there are echoes of similar concerns or attitudes when it comes to this war,” she said of views in Africa and other parts of the world. “China is also trying to show that it is no different.”

Claire Fu Contributed to research.

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