China’s echoes of Russia’s alternative reality are intensifying around the world

Chinese state media rushed to his defense when Twitter issued a warning last week over a Russian government post denying civilian casualties in Ukraine. “Famfa_russia’s statement on Twitter has been censored on #Bucha,” Frontline wrote, a Twitter account linked to CGTN, China’s official English-language broadcaster.

In an article in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, an article announced that the Russians had provided conclusive evidence to prove that pictures of corpses on the streets of the suburb of Bucha in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, were a hoax.

A party television station in Shanghai says the Ukrainian government has devised a “terrible plan” to win the sympathy of the West. “Of course, such evidence would not be admissible in court,” the report said.

Just a month ago, the White House warned China not to expand its propaganda campaign to spread confusion about the war in Ukraine. China’s efforts, however, have intensified, opposing and debating the policy of NATO capitals, and even in recent days, Russia has come under renewed condemnation for its assassination and other atrocities.

The result is an alternative reality to the war – not only for the benefit of the Chinese people, but also for the global audience.

Propaganda has challenged Western efforts to diplomatically isolate Russia, especially in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, which are fertile ground for conspiracy theories and US distrust.

“Russia and China have long shared distrust and animosity towards the West,” said Brett Schaefer, a misleading tracker for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nonprofit group based in Washington. “In the case of Ukraine, it is above a level – just to the extent that they have made some very specific and in some cases far-reaching demands from Russia.”

China’s propaganda has further diminished its efforts to present itself as a neutral actor in the country’s war, interested in promoting a peaceful solution.

Indeed, its diplomats and official journalists have become information warriors in order to legitimize Russia’s claims and deny international concerns about what appears to be a war crime.

Since the war began, they have disregarded the Kremlin’s legitimacy, including that of President Vladimir V. Putin claims he is fighting a neo-Nazi government in Kiev. On Twitter alone, they used the term “Nazi” – which Russia uses as a rallying cry – to protect democracy more often than it did six months ago during the six weeks of the war, according to a database created for the coalition.

In an example on Wednesday, an official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry ছবি Tweeted by a doctor A flag with a swastika next to the flags of Ukraine and the United States is seen showing the Nazis. “Surprisingly, the United States has sided with the neo-Nazis!” The official, Lee Young, wrote about the image, which has a neo-Nazi flag instead of the American flag.

Many of the themes in the countries’ coverage suggest a shared perspective on the timing and coordination of issues, or at least the world and the pre-eminent role of the United States in it. China’s attack on the United States and the NATO alliance, for example, has now been closely watched by Russia’s state media, blaming the West for the war.

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

After YouTube Forbidden RT and Sputnik, two Russian television channels, both use “minimizing or trivializing well-documented violent incidents” for content. RT And Frontline Accused of hypocrisy platform. They used the same video of former US officials, including President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, making fun of weapons, drones and the assassination of former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

In another example, the same accounts were created by Joseph R. in 1997. Using a video from Biden Jr. warns that NATO’s eastward expansion could provoke a “strong and hostile” response 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 has done little to influence Beijing. Instead, Chinese propagandists have stepped up their efforts, expanding not only the Kremlin’s broader view of the war but also some blatant lies about its conduct.

“If you’re just looking at the outputs, that message didn’t come,” Mr Schaefer said. “If anything, we’ve seen them double down.”

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

Although the extent of direct collusion between the Russians and the Chinese in the promotion of the war is uncertain, the roots of cooperation in international media coverage date back almost a decade.

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

Sputnik alone has reached 17 agreements with major Chinese media. In 2021, its articles have been shared more than 2,500 times by major Chinese media, Vasily V. According to Pushkov, Russia is the director of international cooperation at Segodnia, which owns and operates Sputnik.

The two have also taken other hints 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 biological weapons in Ukraine, Chinese state media also began receiving Mr Carlson’s broadcasts.

On March 26, Mr Carlson was quoted in China’s flagship night news broadcast as saying, “It appears that our government has been financing biolab in Ukraine for some time.” The next day, the English-language channel, CGTN, reiterated a Russian demand that the labs be tied to the laptop of Hunter Biden, the son of the American president.

The Russian and Chinese state media are also increasingly drawing the views of Internet celebrities, scholars and influential people from the same group, featuring them in their shows and YouTube videos. One of them, Benjamin Norton, a journalist who claimed that there had been a coup in Ukraine in 2014, and that U.S. officials had replaced the leaders of the current Ukrainian government.

He first explained the conspiracy theory in RT, although it was later leaked by Chinese state media and tweeted by accounts like Frontline. In a March interview with Mr. Norton, the Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, Trumpett as an exclusive, he said the United States, not Russia, was responsible for Russia’s attack.

“Regarding the current situation in Ukraine, Benjamin said it was not a war waged by Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but a war planned and provoked by the United States in early 2014,” said an unnamed CCTV commentator.

At times, China’s information campaigns appear to contradict the country’s official diplomatic statements, undermining China’s efforts to cut ties with its relations with Russia and its brutal attacks. On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called Bukha’s pictures “disturbing” and called on all parties to “exercise restraint and avoid baseless allegations.”

Just a day earlier, Chen Weihua, a vocal and cheerful editor at the Chinese government-owned China Daily, seemed to have done just that. He retweeted a widely shared post stating that there was “no evidence” of genocide in Bucharest and accused the West of “inciting emotions, demonizing opponents and resorting to atrocities to prolong the war.”

Mr Chen is a strand of a broad network of diplomats, government-controlled media and state-backed scholars and influential people who have spread the domestic narrative about China’s conflict on foreign platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. At the heart of their message is that the United States and NATO, not Mr Putin, are responsible for the war.

A political cartoon, shared by state media and Chinese diplomats, depicts the European Union being abducted by Uncle Sam and chained to a tank with a NATO flag. Another, from a Chinese diplomat in St. Petersburg, Russia, shows a star with a spear behind an EU doll and an arm with a bar sleeve.

Other images depicting the European Union as a US broker have come out of a number of official Chinese accounts in the run-up to an exciting meeting between China’s Mr Xi and the European Union, where Europe has urged China not to. Breaking Western sanctions or supporting Russia’s war.

Maria Repnikova, a professor of global communications at Georgia State University who studies information dissemination in China and Russia, says the two countries have a “shared view of resentment towards the West” that drives nationalist sentiment at home. At the same time, shared messages have resonated worldwide, especially outside the United States and Europe.

“It’s not a combination but an echo of similar concerns or positions in this war,” he said of views in Africa and other parts of the world. “China is also trying to show that it is not isolated.”

Claire Fu Contribution research.

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