UK media is reporting 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. According to a report by the Guardian:
March 31, 2022 Close ties between Russian and Chinese state media along with strict government control of information have allowed Russian propaganda to spread swiftly throughout China, “nazifying” Ukraine in the eyes of some Chinese citizens and fostering pro-Russian sentiment, a new report has claimed. Taiwan-based cyber monitoring group, Doublethink Labs, tracked state and social media from mid-February until late March. It said Chinese sources were amplifying Russian disinformation about Ukraine and linking Ukrainian nazism to the Hong Kong protests to encourage solidarity between Russian and Chinese people against “foreign forces interfering with internal affairs”. Russian authorities had pushed a narrative of nazism in Ukraine as a key justification for its invasion of the country, as well as the threat posed by a Nato expansion – narratives that gained traction in China where anti-US sentiment runs high.
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Since March, Doublethink Lab, a Taiwanese NGO, has been continuously tracking the Mandarin-language information environment pertaining to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. The Global Influence Operations Report has recently reported that Doublethink research suggests that PRC officials and media are blaming the West for the conflict and drawing parallels to Taiwan. The Kremlin’s rhetoric on Ukraine – claiming that both countries are part of the same spiritual and political sphere and that NATO meddling in the region is a security threat to Russia – has been repeatedly echoed by Chinese claims that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China and that US interference in Taiwan and East Asia is a security threat to Beijing. Like Moscow, Beijing has been using a combination of military provocations, a political disinformation campaign, economic coercion, and diplomatic maneuvering to isolate and pressure Taiwan.
A recent GIOR investigation into Chinese information operations centered on Ukraine has found that China is also using the Ukraine conflict to emphasize what it says is the West’s immorality, weakness, and hypocrisy. These anti-western Chinese information operations are conducted on social media, official Chinese state-backed media channels, and through statements by Chinese officials and diplomats. We have also reported that China has amplified false Russian claims about the US and biological weapons labs in Ukraine and that pro-Russian propaganda has been pushed on social media by inauthentic accounts and genuine Chinese officials. A recent report by Brookings, a US think tank, argues that Russia’s and China’s increasing collaboration on the narrative being supplied to its domestic audiences suggests this is a broader project to reshape the global information landscape.