A Global Influence Operations Report investigation into Chinese information operations centered on Ukraine reveals that China is using the 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. In August 2021, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese government’s main English-language newspaper, the Global Times, was a highly influential journalist and “the voice of China” who is waging a sophisticated propaganda war against the West. Xijin recently published a video in which he accuses the US and NATO of immorality because they are encouraging Ukrainians to fight against the Russian invaders. According to the video:
March 2, 2022 Just one week into the war, negotiations were high on the agenda of both sides, reflecting a strong willingness for a settlement despite the wide gap in positions. Yet in Washington and Europe, little encouragement is seen for the negotiations. The US and its allies are quite incendiary by encouraging Ukraine to combat. One could say that fighting is the basis for negotiations but advocacy for negotiations deserves to be high on the agenda. It’s obvious that both the US and NATO are hardly emphasizing it that way. The US and NATO have repeatedly stated that they will not send troops to war while providing arms and aid to Ukraine as a fortress to sap the fighting power of Russia’s army, leaving the Ukrainian people alone to suffer endlessly, which is immoral.
Watch the full video here.
In another video published by the Global Times, Hu Xijin says, “neither Russia nor the West should misunderstand that the other side is weak” and that neither of them should pursue absolute victory in Ukraine.
The Global Times has also published an article supporting the Twitter campaign #StandWithRussia and #StandWithPutin, which it claims is a sign that netizens from around the world “join in to criticize the US and Western countries’ hypocrisy.” According to the article:
March 4, 2022 Twitter has witnessed thousands of posts with hashtags like #StandWithRussia and #StandWithPutin in recent days, a response from Indian netizens toward the US’ reportedly implicit sanctions against India for abstaining in the UN vote on Ukraine. The discussions started by Indian netizens have seen even more netizens from around the world join in to criticize the US and Western countries’ hypocrisy for their full support of Ukraine while keeping silent to the deaths caused by themselves and NATO around the world.
Read the rest here.
However, recent research reveals that the #StandWithRussia and #StandWithPutin hashtags have been pushed mainly by inauthentic accounts, suggesting a coordinated influence operation. According to a Twitter thread from disinformation researcher Marc Owen Jones:
March 3, 2022 This is a thread on pro-Russian propaganda & #disinformation. I analysed the hashtags “i stand with Putin” & “i stand with Russia’. I analysed around 20,000 Twitter interactions involving 9600 unique accounts. […] 15/ anyway, that’s it for now. To sum up. There are bots, spam and what appears to be lots of inauthentic behaviour driving the ‘i stand with putin’ and ‘i stand with russia’ hashtag. Of course there are real people in there too, not least those condemning the hashtag. #Ukraine
Read the full thread here.
Doublethink Lab, a Taiwanese NGO, has recently published a list of Mandarin-language information operations on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, highlighting how PRC officials and media are blaming the West for the conflict and drawing parallels to Taiwan. According to the Doublethink Lab report:
March 2, 2022 PRC state media and diplomats argue on Twitter that the US and NATO are responsible for the conflict and that Western sanctions will only bring more suffering. […]
PRC state media and diplomats argue on Twitter that the US and NATO are responsible for the conflict and that Western sanctions will only bring more suffering.
“Guancha,” a website with close links to the CCP, published a story claiming that Ukrainian neo-Nazis “Azov regiment” participated in the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. […]
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying uses English to tweet about Xi’s phone call with Putin, however does not make clear the PRC’s position on the invasion. PRC ambassador to the US Qin Gang appeals for peaceful unification with Taiwan and opposition to Taiwan’s independence. […]
22nd, Beijing News subsidiary Horizon News (世面) is suspected of accidentally publishing censorship guidance directions to a public Weibo account, including the direction not to publish anything that is anti-Russia or pro-West, instructions on how to handle republications, and monitor comment threads, etc.
Read the full list here.
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.