European media is reporting that according to the EU’s foreign policy body, China is frequently repeating Russian rhetoric on the Ukraine war, in many cases amplifying Russian disinformation. According to a Euractiv report:
April 7, 2022 China is pushing narratives about the war in Ukraine, in many cases amplifying Russian disinformation, according to the EU’s foreign policy body. China’s state-backed media frequently repeat dominant Kremlin rhetoric on the war, including denials of atrocities and the attribution of blame for the conflict to NATO and the US, says EUvsDisinfo, a disinformation analysis project run by the European External Action Service. While China has sought to position itself as somewhat neutral and a potential mediator in the conflict, the country has refused to condemn Russia’s actions or support international sanctions. China’s messaging on the war, particularly its own relationship to it, is varied, Katja Drinhausen, senior analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), told EURACTIV. Still, she noted that there had been close alignment with Russian media from the start. “The question at the beginning was ‘is this just opportunistic behaviour or falling into kind of predefined patterns of cooperation?’”, she said. Video-sharing app TikTok has limited services in Russia after it passed a law criminalising sharing “false” information about the war in Ukraine. The move makes it one of the first Chinese companies to boycott Moscow following the invasion. EUvsDisinfo says China has sought to maintain a neutral role while refraining from condemning Russia’s actions and aligning itself with narratives that the project describes as “borrowed from the Kremlin’s playbook”. Among the most prominent is the line that anti-China and anti-Russia sentiment from NATO and the US pushed Russia into confrontation. Other narratives have included conspiracy theories about US-run military biolabs and repetitions of the Kremlin’s justification of the invasion on the grounds of “de-nazifying” Ukraine. Contributing to the common narratives on the war that have emerged in recent weeks are links between Chinese and Russian state media outlets that long pre-date the crisis, including formal content-sharing agreements in place for several years.
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The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) has been reporting extensively on increasing evidence of coordination between Russian and Chinese disinformation on Ukraine:
- On April 7, we reported that close ties between Russian and Chinese state media and strict government control of information have allowed Russian disinformation on Ukraine to spread swiftly throughout China.
- On March 16, we reported a disinformation researcher had found a clear overlap on Twitter between pro-Russian propaganda pushed by inauthentic accounts and genuine Chinese officials amplifying the US bioweapons conspiracy theory.
- On March 14, we reported China’s amplification of false Russian claims about the US and biological weapons labs in Ukraine shows that the two countries are increasingly coordinating their disinformation efforts.