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Report: China’s state-run outlets promote ‘pro-Russian’ narrative of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

  • Chinese state-run media outlets are reportedly promoting pro-Russian talking points in their domestic coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • A recent analysis by CNN alleged that Weibo posts by outlets such as CCTV, the People’s Daily and Xinhua go against the neutral position the Chinese government has been portraying.

  • Nearly half of the over 300 most-shared Ukraine-related posts during the first eight days of Russia's invasion were reportedly found to be “distinctly pro-Russian.”

  • Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned international news channel CGTN has seemingly been promoting pro-Russian talking points via Facebook advertisements that target global users.

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A recent analysis conducted by CNN alleged that nearly half of the over 300 most-shared Ukraine-related social media posts by Chinese state-run media outlets were “distinctly pro-Russian.”

The analysis looked into 14 major outlets’ Weibo posts from the first eight days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Details in the posts that were not directly lifted from Russia’s own state media were attributed to Russian authorities. 

Some of the topics taken from Russian sources include accusations that Ukrainian soldiers use “Nazi” methods, misleading information on the location of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russia’s claims that it will not attack areas with civilian presence.  

While the Chinese government has been portraying a neutral position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in its international messaging, Chinese state-run media outlets such as CCTV, People’s Daily and Xinhua in particular have reportedly been found to be promoting pro-Russian talking points in their domestic coverage of the recent invasion, which they often refer to as a “special military operation.”

On Monday, local broadcaster CCTV promoted Russia’s speculation that the U.S. government provided financial support to help Ukrainian labs develop biological weapons. This speculation supports Moscow’s ongoing narrative that Ukraine is an American-controlled state which poses a threat to Russia.

CCTV’s source was reportedly Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov, who has earlier claimed that Russian soldiers found “evidence” of the “hasty measures to conceal any traces of the military biological program finance[d] by the US Department of Defense.” 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded via a statement on Wednesday that said”Russia’s false claims about alleged US biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine” are “preposterous.”

“It’s the kind of disinformation operation we’ve seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries, which have been debunked, and an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent,” Psaki wrote.

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda,” she added, “we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern.” 

Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned international news channel CGTN has reportedly been promoting pro-Russian talking points via advertisements on Facebook that target global users. Meta’s recent decision to no longer highlight content from Russian state media does not prevent other countries such as China from buying advertisements to promote pro-Russian talking points.

So far this month, CGTN has reportedly posted at least 21 Facebook advertisements that mostly featured newscasts with pro-Russia, anti-NATO content.

Meta’s position on the matter is attributed to statements that the company’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, made last week about current challenges with preventing the spread of disinformation.

“We’re in a completely unprecedented situation… which is why not only ourselves but many others in the tech sector are taking these pretty exceptional measures at this time,” Clegg was quoted as saying.

Featured Image via CGTN

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