ChinaMarch 28 2023, 7:00 am

Iran and China: The New Propaganda Power Couple?

Iran and Chi­na have recent­ly signed a 25-year strate­gic agree­ment that aims to boost their eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal coop­er­a­tion in var­i­ous fields, such as trade, ener­gy, infra­struc­ture, defense, and secu­ri­ty. The deal, announced in March 2021, has been hailed by both sides as a his­toric mile­stone that will ben­e­fit their mutu­al inter­ests and counter the influ­ence of the Unit­ed States and its allies in the region.

How­ev­er, behind the scenes, Iran and Chi­na have also been engaged in a pro­pa­gan­da part­ner­ship that seeks to under­mine the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the West, espe­cial­ly the US, and por­tray them­selves as respon­si­ble and suc­cess­ful actors in deal­ing with glob­al chal­lenges, such as the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Using a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tu­al manip­u­la­tion and out­right dis­in­for­ma­tion, Iran and Chi­na have been spread­ing false or mis­lead­ing nar­ra­tives through their state-con­trolled media out­lets, social media plat­forms, and covert online operations.

Some of these nar­ra­tives include:

- Claim­ing that COVID-19 was a US bioweapon that was delib­er­ate­ly unleashed on Chi­na and Iran or that it orig­i­nat­ed from a US mil­i­tary lab. These claims have been repeat­ed­ly debunked by sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence and inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tions. Still, they have been ampli­fied by Iran­ian and Chi­nese offi­cials and media out­lets, as well as by Rus­sia, anoth­er major source of disinformation.

- High­light­ing and exag­ger­at­ing the fail­ures of demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­tries in respond­ing to the pan­dem­ic while prais­ing their own efforts as effec­tive and exem­plary. Iran and Chi­na have down­played or cov­ered up their mis­man­age­ment of the out­break, result­ing in thou­sands of deaths and wide­spread suf­fer­ing. They have also accused the US and its allies of hoard­ing vac­cines, impos­ing sanc­tions, and spread­ing rumors.

- Dis­put­ing or deny­ing the human rights vio­la­tions com­mit­ted by Iran and Chi­na against their own peo­ple or oth­er coun­tries. Iran and Chi­na have faced inter­na­tion­al crit­i­cism and sanc­tions for their repres­sion of dis­sent, per­se­cu­tion of minori­ties, inter­fer­ence in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, and sup­port for ter­ror­ist groups. They have also tried to deflect atten­tion from these issues by accus­ing the West of hypocrisy, dou­ble stan­dards, or interference.

- Pro­mot­ing their 25-year agree­ment as a strate­gic part­ner­ship that will bring peace and pros­per­i­ty to the region and the world. Iran and Chi­na have both por­trayed their deal as a win-win sit­u­a­tion that will enhance their eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion, cul­tur­al exchange, and region­al sta­bil­i­ty. They have also tried to down­play or dis­miss the con­cerns raised by oth­er coun­tries, such as Israel, Sau­di Ara­bia, India, or the US, about the poten­tial impli­ca­tions of their alliance.

The pro­pa­gan­da part­ner­ship between Iran and Chi­na is unsur­pris­ing, giv­en their shared inter­ests and chal­lenges. Both coun­tries face increas­ing pres­sure from the US and its allies over their nuclear pro­grams, human rights records, region­al ambi­tions, and glob­al influ­ence. Both coun­tries also seek to expand their soft pow­er and legit­i­ma­cy in the inter­na­tion­al are­na by pre­sent­ing them­selves as alter­na­tive gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment models.

How­ev­er, this pro­pa­gan­da part­ner­ship also faces some lim­i­ta­tions and chal­lenges. First, giv­en their dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties, val­ues, inter­ests, and capa­bil­i­ties, it is unclear how deep or durable their strate­gic agree­ment will be in prac­tice. Sec­ond, it is unclear how effec­tive or per­sua­sive their pro­pa­gan­da efforts will be in reach­ing or influ­enc­ing their tar­get audi­ences, giv­en their lack of cred­i­bil­i­ty, trans­paren­cy, diver­si­ty, or appeal. Third, it is unclear how resilient or adapt­able their pro­pa­gan­da efforts will be in fac­ing counter-nar­ra­tives or fact-check­ing from inde­pen­dent sources or platforms.

There­fore, while Iran and Chi­na may con­tin­ue using pro­pa­gan­da to advance their inter­ests and agen­das, they may also encounter obsta­cles or back­lash­es that could under­mine their objec­tives or expose their vulnerabilities.




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