Pro-Russia Propaganda Proliferates in China as Moscow’s Isolation Grows

If Russia needs to find some support amid the piling Western condemnation for its invasion of Ukraine, all it takes is a browse of the Chinese internet. In China’s tightly controlled online space, pro-Moscow sentiment dominates. Celebrities have been chastised for voicing sympathy for Ukraine. Hawkish Russian remarks are cheered. And some Chinese users have described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a hero standing up to the West. The enthusiasm has extended to e-commerce. Some Chinese have flocked to a Russian-owned online store that was said to be endorsed by the Russian Embassy in China, clearing shelves for most of its products from chocolates, to wafers and vodka. “Every chocolate is a bullet fired at the nazis, ypa!” wrote one buyer in the store’s review section, in an apparent reference to Putin’s claim that he wanted to “denazify” the country in justifying the invasion. The outlet, known as the Russian National Pavilion, saw its online following soar three fold within a day, and received a total of 50,000 orders placed since Feb. 28, according to Chinese media reports. By Wednesday, a video has popped up from Sergey Batsev, an ambassador to China for the Russian nonprofit Business Russia, thanking “Chinese friends” for supporting his country in such “difficult times.” “During this complicated and ever-changing international situation, we have seen our old Chinese friends’ camaraderie,” he said. “ˇThere’s an old Chinese saying that a goose feather sent from far away conveys profound affections. We will cherish this deep friendship in our hearts.” Sergey Batsev, an ambassador to China for the Russian nonprofit Business Russia, thanks Chinese buyers for their support for an online Russian store. (JD.com/Screenshot via The Epoch Times) Meanwhile, nationalist voices on social media have cheered a strong Russia-China partnership. “I said long ago that with China acting as a shield for Russia, whatever Western sanctions will dissolve to nothing,” wrote a nationalist Chinese scholar on Weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent. The post attached photos that appeared to show long lines of shoppers inside a Russian store in northern China. He had visited the website of the Russian National Pavilion twice without finding anything available to buy, he said. It’s unclear to what extent these viewpoints reflect the broader public sentiment in China due to Beijing’s heavy censorship that has silenced voices from the other side. Several Chinese actors have been censured on Weibo after posting pro-Ukraine remarks. Social media posts by prominent Chinese scholars opposing Russia’s invasion were taken offline, as with suggestions of Russia being on the losing end. A video by a Ukrainian vlogger popular in China, entreating her fans in Mandarin to “respect lives” and “not take war as a joke,” was largely erased from the Chinese internet and only viewable on Twitter, a platform banned in China. When the English Premier League announced plans to show solidarity with Ukraine this weekend by having club captains wear armbands in colors of the Ukraine flag, blue and yellow, and displaying on stadium screens the slogan “Football Stands Together” printed on a Ukraine flag, the league’s Chinese broadcast partner reacted by pulling the scheduled coverage. People walk past signage in the design of Ukraine’s national flag with the message “We Support Ukraine” outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing on March 3, 2022. (Photo by Noel Celis / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images) Fostering a pro-Russian mood, or at least the impression of it, appears to be Beijing’s designs from the beginning. Two days before Putin started bombing Ukraine, leaked censorship rules showed Chinese state media had been told to ensure that its content not appear anti-Russia or pro-Western. As the Chinese regime has refused to use the word “invasion” to characterize Russia’s attack, the word is taboo in coverage across Chinese media. When a reference is necessary, media outlets have adopted Moscow’s descriptor of “special military operation,” or used the vague phrase “the current situation.” In recent press conferences and public statements, Chinese officials have taken an awkward line of refusing to open back either side. They have, simultaneously: refused to denounce Russia’s attack, recognized that Russia has legitimate security concerns, maintained that all countries’ sovereignty should be respected, called for a peaceful settlement to the crisis, and blamed the United States for inflaming the prospect of war. But its propaganda machinery has taken on a more fiery tone. While most media coverage in the country is focused on the Beijing Paralympics, the relatively few Chinese state media reports on the crisis have played down criticism of Russia. The hashtag “multiple countries refuse to sanction Russia,” pushed by nationalist tabloid Global Times, got 120 million views in a day on Weibo. A man reads the Chinese state-run ne

Pro-Russia Propaganda Proliferates in China as Moscow’s Isolation Grows

If Russia needs to find some support amid the piling Western condemnation for its invasion of Ukraine, all it takes is a browse of the Chinese internet.

In China’s tightly controlled online space, pro-Moscow sentiment dominates. Celebrities have been chastised for voicing sympathy for Ukraine. Hawkish Russian remarks are cheered. And some Chinese users have described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a hero standing up to the West.

The enthusiasm has extended to e-commerce. Some Chinese have flocked to a Russian-owned online store that was said to be endorsed by the Russian Embassy in China, clearing shelves for most of its products from chocolates, to wafers and vodka.

“Every chocolate is a bullet fired at the nazis, ypa!” wrote one buyer in the store’s review section, in an apparent reference to Putin’s claim that he wanted to “denazify” the country in justifying the invasion.

The outlet, known as the Russian National Pavilion, saw its online following soar three fold within a day, and received a total of 50,000 orders placed since Feb. 28, according to Chinese media reports. By Wednesday, a video has popped up from Sergey Batsev, an ambassador to China for the Russian nonprofit Business Russia, thanking “Chinese friends” for supporting his country in such “difficult times.”

“During this complicated and ever-changing international situation, we have seen our old Chinese friends’ camaraderie,” he said. “ˇThere’s an old Chinese saying that a goose feather sent from far away conveys profound affections. We will cherish this deep friendship in our hearts.”

Sergey Batsev
Sergey Batsev, an ambassador to China for the Russian nonprofit Business Russia, thanks Chinese buyers for their support for an online Russian store. (JD.com/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, nationalist voices on social media have cheered a strong Russia-China partnership.

“I said long ago that with China acting as a shield for Russia, whatever Western sanctions will dissolve to nothing,” wrote a nationalist Chinese scholar on Weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent. The post attached photos that appeared to show long lines of shoppers inside a Russian store in northern China. He had visited the website of the Russian National Pavilion twice without finding anything available to buy, he said.

It’s unclear to what extent these viewpoints reflect the broader public sentiment in China due to Beijing’s heavy censorship that has silenced voices from the other side.

Several Chinese actors have been censured on Weibo after posting pro-Ukraine remarks. Social media posts by prominent Chinese scholars opposing Russia’s invasion were taken offline, as with suggestions of Russia being on the losing end. A video by a Ukrainian vlogger popular in China, entreating her fans in Mandarin to “respect lives” and “not take war as a joke,” was largely erased from the Chinese internet and only viewable on Twitter, a platform banned in China.

When the English Premier League announced plans to show solidarity with Ukraine this weekend by having club captains wear armbands in colors of the Ukraine flag, blue and yellow, and displaying on stadium screens the slogan “Football Stands Together” printed on a Ukraine flag, the league’s Chinese broadcast partner reacted by pulling the scheduled coverage.

CHINA-CANADA-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
People walk past signage in the design of Ukraine’s national flag with the message “We Support Ukraine” outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing on March 3, 2022. (Photo by Noel Celis / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Fostering a pro-Russian mood, or at least the impression of it, appears to be Beijing’s designs from the beginning.

Two days before Putin started bombing Ukraine, leaked censorship rules showed Chinese state media had been told to ensure that its content not appear anti-Russia or pro-Western.

As the Chinese regime has refused to use the word “invasion” to characterize Russia’s attack, the word is taboo in coverage across Chinese media. When a reference is necessary, media outlets have adopted Moscow’s descriptor of “special military operation,” or used the vague phrase “the current situation.”

In recent press conferences and public statements, Chinese officials have taken an awkward line of refusing to open back either side. They have, simultaneously: refused to denounce Russia’s attack, recognized that Russia has legitimate security concerns, maintained that all countries’ sovereignty should be respected, called for a peaceful settlement to the crisis, and blamed the United States for inflaming the prospect of war.

But its propaganda machinery has taken on a more fiery tone.

While most media coverage in the country is focused on the Beijing Paralympics, the relatively few Chinese state media reports on the crisis have played down criticism of Russia. The hashtag “multiple countries refuse to sanction Russia,” pushed by nationalist tabloid Global Times, got 120 million views in a day on Weibo.

CHINA-RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN-CONFLICT
A man reads the Chinese state-run newspaper with coverage of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, on a street in Beijing on Feb. 24, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images)

“Russians, please aim your bullets more accurately,” a reporter from the Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper, Jinhua News, wrote in a post upon learning that 70 Japanese have volunteered to join the Ukrainian army.

Crude jokes online about welcoming beautiful Ukrainian women refugees to China and pro-Russia remarks have made lives more difficult for Chinese nationals stuck in Ukraine. Some said they were threatened by angry Ukrainians when going to supermarkets.

Beijing’s stance did not go unnoticed in Russia.

Maria Zakharova, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson, on Thursday said they “appreciate Beijing’s impartial and unbiased vision of the Ukrainian issue.”

China “avoids being misled by Western ploys,” she told a news briefing.


China Reporter

Follow

Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at [email protected]