China ignores Biden, "doubles down" on Russian propaganda: NYT

China ignores Biden, "doubles down" on Russian propaganda: NYT
Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Is this a case of incompetent foreign policy, or just tyrants of a feather flocking together? Perhaps a bit of both, as the New York Times points out today. Joe Biden warned Xi Jinping about amplifying Russian war propaganda last month, but China seems delighted to double down instead:


Only a month ago, the White House warned China not to amplify Russia’s campaign to sow disinformation about the war in Ukraine. The Chinese efforts have intensified anyway, contradicting and disputing the policies of NATO capitals, even as Russia faced renewed condemnation for the killings in Bucha and other atrocities in recent days.

The result has been to create an alternate reality of the war — not just for the consumption of China’s citizens but also for a global audience. …

China’s efforts have made it clear that the White House’s warning did little to influence Beijing. China’s propagandists have instead intensified their efforts, amplifying not only the Kremlin’s broad views about the war but also some of the most blatant lies about its conduct.

“If you’re just looking at the outputs, then that message didn’t get through,” Mr. Schafer said. “If anything, we’ve seen them sort of double down.”

It’s not just in the US, either. Australia has seen the same phenomenon, primarily among the ex-pat communities:

A terrifying WeChat group between Chinese-Australians reveals how propaganda about the Russian invasion of Ukraine is filtering into communities in Australia.

Screenshots show what is purported to be content from Chinese outlets that lionise Russia, posted to Twitter by Yang Han, who describes himself as a Sydney-based former Chinese diplomat.

“They share videos from Chinese media sources about the prowess of Russia precision attacks and the decency of Russian tanks letting other vehicles pass at the Red Army’s own risk,” Yang wrote.

“They marvel at Russia’s propaganda skills with a video about Russian soldiers sharing food with Ukrainian children or Ukrainian POWs reflecting on their sins at a memorial for children killed by the evil Ukrainian Government.” …

The ideas captured in the WeChat screenshots are reflective of the unofficial stance of the Chinese government. In its official pronouncements, the Chinese government acts as an arms-length onlooker to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, deliberately choosing anodyne language in its communications.


Almost exactly a month ago, the Biden administration made a big show about warning China against helping out Putin. The warning came as a response to Chinese media outlets insisting that the US funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine and that this gave Putin reason to launch his invasion. Jen Psaki warned that China was providing cover for a WMD attack on Ukraine by Putin:

Now, the Biden White House has taken the extraordinary step of calling out both countries on their coordinated propaganda campaign and saying they might be providing cover for a potential biological or chemical weapons attack on Ukrainians by the Russian military.

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, 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,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening. “It’s a clear pattern.”

She called the accusations “preposterous,” and said the United States “does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.” The State Department labeled the assertions “total nonsense” and said Ukraine has no biological weapons labs. Top American intelligence officials reiterated those points in a Senate hearing on Thursday.

What did Biden and his team do to follow up on those warnings? Biden has a range of potential responses, from tariffs to sanctions on China’s communications industry, and so on. That would follow the Trump administration’s path to forcing Xi into compliance with trade agreements, which Biden opposed and has been undoing since taking office. Like Barack Obama’s “red line” in Syria, Biden’s warning appears to have had no consideration of applications of consequences if our opponent ignored it. That’s a demonstration of a lack of preparation, at the very best, or sheer impotence and incompetence.


One does have to wonder why the social media platforms that lock out people over COVID heterodoxy still allow China and its diplomats access, though. Note how much of this gets transmitted on Twitter, for instance, as well as China-controlled WeChat. Why hasn’t Twitter taken down these accounts for disinformation? Is that a standard that only applies to Americans?

WeChat is another issue altogether. The Trump administration tried to take down WeChat as well as TikTok, the latter of which effort resulted in much ridicule, but WeChat is a strategic tool used by the Xi regime for propaganda and influence over Chinese diaspora. It also gets used for payments, and is one of the main channels for remittances by Chinese emigrés back to relatives under Xi’s despotic rule. If Biden wanted to get serious about China’s propaganda on behalf of Putin, or just get serious about China in general, locking WeChat out of the US would be a good place to start. Actually, any start would look better than Biden does at the moment.

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