China’s Tech Companies Amplify Russian Propaganda on Ukraine

News Analysis China’s state media, including its most serious news outlets, the People’s Daily and China Daily, are amplifying Russian propaganda on the war in Ukraine, including anti-American and anti-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) narratives. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has gone so far as to compare the situation to Taiwan and justify, in the nationalist tabloid Global Times, an invasion of that island democracy. The CCP-controlled media in China labels Vladimir Putin’s invasion a “special military operation” to stop what Moscow’s disinformation calls a “genocide” of Russians in Ukraine and “NATO expansion” that supposedly threatens Russia and China. This propagandistic twisting of the truth whitewashes Putin’s bloody and unprovoked war against a sovereign state into something one might expect a doctor to perform. Here the CCP’s disinformation is at its worst, given that Moscow has destroyed multiple hospitals in Ukraine, including children’s and maternity hospitals. Beijing is using its power of censorship to misuse its own tech companies, forcing them to scrub Chinese social media of attempts by regular Chinese citizens to provide alternative perspectives, including by drawing attention to the bombing of these hospitals, along with the destruction of schools and apartment buildings. Firefighters work on putting out a fire after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuhuiv on Feb. 24, 2022. Russian armed forces were trying to invade Ukraine from several directions. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images) China’s propaganda apparatus is, perhaps most flagrantly, promoting Russia’s story that the United States funds a Ukrainian biological weapons lab in the country. A favorite technique of Russian propagandists is to twist the truth of a legitimate story, for example, the statement by U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland about a biological lab whose materials would be dangerous if captured by Russians, to falsely claim that the lab was engaged in U.S.-sponsored weapons research. This claim is of course false, and Nuland said no such thing. Central to China’s take on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from its official statements to its censored and filtered social media, is an anti-American and anti-NATO subtext. “In diplomatic statements and social-media discussions alike, Russia’s war on Ukraine is rationalized as a necessary step for resisting Western (and mainly U.S.) aggression,” wrote Maria Repnikova and Wendy Zhou in the Atlantic on March 11. “Chinese officials have never explicitly endorsed Russia’s invasion, but they have explained this conflict as reverberating from military escalation triggered by the United States.” U.S. officials rightly reply that Moscow is “flat-out” lying in its propaganda. But Russia’s lies, when amplified by a global propaganda and disinformation network that is both diverse and layered in its approach, are pervasive enough to confuse the public in many countries—including democracies like France, Germany, Britain, Canada, India, Bangladesh, and of course the United States—to keep them from effective measures that unify the democracies and their allies, and contain Moscow and Beijing’s violent and global ambitions. China’s tech giants—including Sina Weibo, Tencent, and ByteDance—are forced by the CCP to participate in the Russian disinformation campaigns by promoting Moscow’s story and scrubbing any views sympathetic to Ukraine. Many of these companies enjoy large-scale investment from the West, including through passive institutional funds that supposedly subscribe to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles of investing. A man holding a phone walks past a sign of Chinese company ByteDance’s app TikTok, known locally as Douyin, at the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, on Oct. 18, 2019. (STR/Files/Reuters) But investors are starting to see the writing on the wall for China. Last week was one of the worst in a year for Chinese stocks and bonds, including the tech stocks that promote Moscow and Beijing’s destructive propaganda. Institutional investors in the United States and Europe are drastically reducing their exposure to Chinese assets, many of which could be delisted in the United States due to their failure to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission accounting requirements, or sanctioned for their participation in not only genocide against Uyghurs and others in China, but now for deepening or continuing their engagement with Russia’s economy. This is added to downward pressure on Chinese assets due to increasing coronavirus cases, a housing slump, rising commodity prices, and problems for companies seeking to sell shares in Hong Kong. Chinese assets are also negatively affected by a more generalized downward pressure from monetary tightening by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which will pull money out of non-U.S. government assets internationally, and into the safe harbor o

China’s Tech Companies Amplify Russian Propaganda on Ukraine

News Analysis

China’s state media, including its most serious news outlets, the People’s Daily and China Daily, are amplifying Russian propaganda on the war in Ukraine, including anti-American and anti-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) narratives.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has gone so far as to compare the situation to Taiwan and justify, in the nationalist tabloid Global Times, an invasion of that island democracy.

The CCP-controlled media in China labels Vladimir Putin’s invasion a “special military operation” to stop what Moscow’s disinformation calls a “genocide” of Russians in Ukraine and “NATO expansion” that supposedly threatens Russia and China. This propagandistic twisting of the truth whitewashes Putin’s bloody and unprovoked war against a sovereign state into something one might expect a doctor to perform.

Here the CCP’s disinformation is at its worst, given that Moscow has destroyed multiple hospitals in Ukraine, including children’s and maternity hospitals. Beijing is using its power of censorship to misuse its own tech companies, forcing them to scrub Chinese social media of attempts by regular Chinese citizens to provide alternative perspectives, including by drawing attention to the bombing of these hospitals, along with the destruction of schools and apartment buildings.

TOPSHOT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Firefighters work on putting out a fire after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuhuiv on Feb. 24, 2022. Russian armed forces were trying to invade Ukraine from several directions. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s propaganda apparatus is, perhaps most flagrantly, promoting Russia’s story that the United States funds a Ukrainian biological weapons lab in the country. A favorite technique of Russian propagandists is to twist the truth of a legitimate story, for example, the statement by U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland about a biological lab whose materials would be dangerous if captured by Russians, to falsely claim that the lab was engaged in U.S.-sponsored weapons research. This claim is of course false, and Nuland said no such thing.

Central to China’s take on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from its official statements to its censored and filtered social media, is an anti-American and anti-NATO subtext.

“In diplomatic statements and social-media discussions alike, Russia’s war on Ukraine is rationalized as a necessary step for resisting Western (and mainly U.S.) aggression,” wrote Maria Repnikova and Wendy Zhou in the Atlantic on March 11. “Chinese officials have never explicitly endorsed Russia’s invasion, but they have explained this conflict as reverberating from military escalation triggered by the United States.”

U.S. officials rightly reply that Moscow is “flat-out” lying in its propaganda. But Russia’s lies, when amplified by a global propaganda and disinformation network that is both diverse and layered in its approach, are pervasive enough to confuse the public in many countries—including democracies like France, Germany, Britain, Canada, India, Bangladesh, and of course the United States—to keep them from effective measures that unify the democracies and their allies, and contain Moscow and Beijing’s violent and global ambitions.

China’s tech giants—including Sina Weibo, Tencent, and ByteDance—are forced by the CCP to participate in the Russian disinformation campaigns by promoting Moscow’s story and scrubbing any views sympathetic to Ukraine. Many of these companies enjoy large-scale investment from the West, including through passive institutional funds that supposedly subscribe to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles of investing.

Epoch Times Photo
A man holding a phone walks past a sign of Chinese company ByteDance’s app TikTok, known locally as Douyin, at the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, on Oct. 18, 2019. (STR/Files/Reuters)

But investors are starting to see the writing on the wall for China. Last week was one of the worst in a year for Chinese stocks and bonds, including the tech stocks that promote Moscow and Beijing’s destructive propaganda.

Institutional investors in the United States and Europe are drastically reducing their exposure to Chinese assets, many of which could be delisted in the United States due to their failure to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission accounting requirements, or sanctioned for their participation in not only genocide against Uyghurs and others in China, but now for deepening or continuing their engagement with Russia’s economy.

This is added to downward pressure on Chinese assets due to increasing coronavirus cases, a housing slump, rising commodity prices, and problems for companies seeking to sell shares in Hong Kong. Chinese assets are also negatively affected by a more generalized downward pressure from monetary tightening by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which will pull money out of non-U.S. government assets internationally, and into the safe harbor of U.S. treasuries.

The Fragrant Harbor’s Hang Seng Index was down 5.6 percent last week, with its tech stocks down 11 percent. Tencent and Alibaba suffered in the trading, which reflects regulatory overreach that is now extending to an increasingly recognized misuse of Chinese companies by the CCP for its propaganda purposes.

Chinese companies listed offshore are under both pressure from the United States, which wants more accounting transparency to the point of that required of all other publicly-listed companies, and Beijing authorities, who ironically see their own tech companies, when listed abroad, as a national security threat.

Along with the China’s economic opening to Russia, while the rest of the world imposes economic sanctions, the promotion of Moscow’s propaganda by the CCP should make very clear to which powers the Party and its tech companies have thrown their support: to the dictatorial and bullying regimes globally that commit evil against regular citizens in Ukraine, Taiwan, China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and beyond.

It is time for investors to pull out of China and its allies entirely, as their money is being used to fuel the propaganda and war machines of two of history’s worst dictators, Xi Jinping and Putin, and other lesser but allied dictators globally. Investment in these countries is increasingly bloody and a risk to democracies everywhere. It must stop.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Follow

Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).