China is mobilizing its global media machine in the war of coronavirus words

China is mobilizing its global media machine in the war of coronavirus words

But the picture has become even more confused by a torrent of propaganda, unreliable theories and deliberate disinformation have been pushed for a number of reasons.

More and more experts and government officials in the United States and Europe accuse China – the country first hit by the virus – to fuel this confusion and to try to shape the narrative through its state broadcasters and publications and on social media.

China is looking to push three main messages about the epidemic, according to Rod Wye, a colleague associated with the Chatham House think tank in London and a former head of Asia research at the UK Foreign Office.

“They are not at all excited to explore the origins because this shows real weaknesses in what they have done,” he told CNN Business.

Third, Wye said, there is an attempt by Chinese officials to “wreak havoc” on how other countries have responded. It is part of an effort “to undermine the credibility of those who criticize China and strengthen the credibility of Chinese fiction,” he added.

Of course, China is not alone in spreading confusing and conflicting information about the virus. United States President Donald Trump shared dubious medical indications, unverified theories of origin, is state governors attacked on coronavirus test features, comments that have been amplified by comprehensive media like Fox News.
But Beijing’s push on coronavirus appears to be part of a larger effort in recent years become more aggressive with his messaging abroad, both through traditional channels like television networks and through a more targeted use of social media, also on platforms banned in China Yes.
The effort was intensified during a war of words between China and some western governments on the coronavirus.
Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China could have done more to prevent the pandemic and suggested, without providing test, that the virus may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory. In an interview with Fox Business on Thursday, Trump threatened to end relations with China over the management of the virus. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an “independent assessment of how this all happened, so that we can learn lessons and prevent this from happening again.”
Chinese officials have lambasted “lies” said to have been fabricated by US politicians and the media to “shift the blame to China for their inadequate response to Covid-19”. A Chinese state media editor called Australia “chewing gum attached to the sole of Chinese shoes”.
China has also firmly rejected the accusations of spreading disinformation. In a Reprimand of 11,000 words of the US statements made by state media over the weekend, the Chinese foreign ministry said that “China has always been open and transparent in the release of information.”

“Some US politicians, scholars and media hostile to China continued to defame and attack China. China is a victim of misinformation,” said the ministry.

China: the hero in the state media

One of the ways in which China spreads its message is through state-funded foreign-language media around the world, including newspapers such as the China Daily and the Global Times and television networks such as the China Global Television Network (CGTN).

The network, which he says he has staff inside more than 70 countries It’s inside 2019 expanded in Europe by opening a 30,000 square foot London office, it employs a mix of local and Chinese staff in all its offices. Like other state-owned outlets, CGTN broadcasts a mix of pandemic news, along with content that even some of its own staff call “pure propaganda”.
A current employee and a former CGTN employee, who spoke with CNN Business on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that while they generally have the freedom to report on certain topics, others are considered off limits. And sometimes, ex-staff member said, discussions between Western employees and their Chinese superiors break out over segments related to Hong Kong protests or Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang. (CGTN was forced to do so register as a foreign agent in the United States and is currently under investigation by the UK media regulator for fairness and impartiality in its coverage of the Hong Kong protests).
In recent years, China has made a great effort to expand its media presence abroad, using traditional networks and social media, including banned platforms at home.

“Their argument about the coronavirus is that they say China has been open and transparent. It’s the same political bullshit * Donald Trump or [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson did. Everyone lost the first month on this, “the current staff member, a journalist based in the United States, told CNN Business.” Of course the Chinese are more able to cover things up and reveal new details … but they are so punchy with ham when they do it they are just horrible. “

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CGTN did not respond to requests for comment.

Clear reports on the number of cases or new treatments for the virus appear alongside bright television segments on China’s successful response to the virus and the aid it is sending worldwide. Much of the recent coverage of alleged Chinese bankruptcies has focused on criticism from other countries and how Chinese officials are rejecting it.

Wye said that Chinese state media do not just push “simple propaganda”, but instead mix what the western public would consider normal relationships with more distorted segments, to make it more palatable to the outside world. For example, direct reporting comments by President Xi Jinping on the fight against coronavirus will also be reported bright pieces about his mother and his childhood.

“Self [the Chinese media] it will not be at all influential, it must be adapted to the society in which they are trying to get the message, “said Wye.” What they want to do is increasingly a strong positive narrative for China and also to reduce or weaken the credibility of the reports that are little more than complementary to what is happening in China. “

Question the origins on social media

On social media, a more sinister approach to news about China and the coronavirus has been in place for weeks. Messages that question the origins of the virus, some even suggest that it was created by the United States, were pushed online by some Chinese officials and then repeated by Chinese state media.

A Tweet of the Chinese embassy in South Africa questioned on the concept that the virus started in China.
And Zhao Lijian, a senior spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, has become famous for his aggressive comments on chirping (tWTR), which is banned in China.
Exclusive: she was falsely accused of starting the pandemic. His life has been turned upside down
In a March Tweet, suggested that the U.S. military may have brought the virus to Wuhan, a conspiracy theory that led a Virginia Army reservist to become the target of online libel campaigns and attacks. The reservist was in Wuhan last October as part of an American military track team.
Zhao’s tweet caused US officials convene Ambassador of China to the State Department.

The Chinese foreign ministry has defended Zhao’s tweets.

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“If you continue to take it out on him just for mentioning this word” he might “, then how about the President of the United States, the vice president, the secretary of state, the spokesman for the State Department and some lawmakers, who have wrongly accused that the virus came from Wuhan’s laboratory, saying that the virus was created by man or leaked? Have you ever questioned them? “, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying asked reporters at a press conference last week.

U.S. reporters contested the Trump administration over this claim and received no supporting evidence.

But it’s not just the American administration that points the fingers.

A relationship from the European Union external action service published last month, he found that China and Russia “have continued to widely hit the conspiracy and disinformation narratives both among the EU public and the rest of the world.” The report also found “evidence of a coordinated push by official Chinese sources to deflect any blame for the outbreak of the pandemic.”
The EU admitted to letting China censor an editorial from the blockade's ambassadors
EU officials I had to deny the reports of several stores that the wording of his investigation had been lessened after pressure from China. A few days later, EU officials admitted that they allowed the Chinese government has censored an opinion piece of EU ambassadors in China, published in the China Daily, removing a reference to the origin of the coronavirus epidemic and its subsequent spread all over the world.

“The central point of this type of misinformation is that it’s not just credibility, it’s everyone’s credibility that is undermined by all of this, so it’s very difficult to establish a clear exposition of how it all started,” said Wye of Chatham House. .

Blend the waters

The U.S. Department of State said it had found evidence that a network of Chinese agents spread coronavirus disinformation online about the origins of the virus and the response of the United States.

Last month, U.S. intelligence agencies evaluated that Chinese agents helped push inaccurate messages about the U.S. response to the pandemic through social media and text platforms, including one that claimed that President Trump was issuing a blockade nationwide.
The EU says the pro-Kremlin media are trying to sow panic and fear. with disinformation of the coronavirus

Lea Gabrielle, head of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center – which coordinates efforts to expose foreign misinformation and propaganda – told reporters last week that Chinese government-related social media accounts have spread questionable “doubts” about US-funded biological safety laboratories in the early Soviet Union, “primarily to try to divert attention from concerns over Wuhan’s laboratories.”

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Other government-related Chinese accounts have pushed “positive messages” about Beijing’s coronavirus response, “he said,” to report that only the [People’s Republic of China’s] crisis management is a model for others and that the PRC is superior. ”

Gabrielle said her team has found evidence that these efforts are supported by a network of inauthentic coordinated accounts on Twitter.

The social media platform told CNN last week, his initial review of part of the accounts marked by the State Department does not support these claims. According to Twitter, numerous accounts belong instead to government agencies, non-governmental organizations and journalists.

In response to allegations from the State Department, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao stressed Twitter’s response and told reporters Wednesday that “China is always opposed to the creation and dissemination of false information. Reports claiming that China has spread misinformation on Twitter are unfounded. ”

Questionable success

The Chinese coronavirus campaign appears to have had mixed success so far.

A survey in Italy released last month found that for the first time Italians look more to China than to the United States as a potential international partner.
China strikes the so-called coronavirus & # 39; lies & # 39; by US politicians as the war of words intensifies

But Chinese state media have had paid content placement agreements canceled by influential documents. A New York Times spokesman told CNN Business that he had stopped publishing advertisements that should appear as news stories.

The UK Telegraph has also stopped taking these pieces and deleted them from its website, according to The Guardian, including a piece titled “Why do some frame China’s heroic efforts to stop the coronavirus as inhuman?” The telegraph did not respond to a request for comment.
A poll conducted by Pew in March and published last month, he found that about two thirds of Americans now have a negative opinion about China, the highest percentage since the research center started asking the question in 2005.

A think tank affiliated to the Chinese State Ministry of Security released a report last month stating that anti-Chinese sentiment in the world is at its peak since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to Reuters.

Bill Bishop, editor of the Sinocismo newsletter and longtime observer of Chinese diplomacy, told CNN Business that the Chinese have angered many western countries such as Australia, France and the United States with disinformation campaigns and the controversial theories launched by their diplomats.

“Somehow we should leave him [the Chinese] talk and let the facts speak for themselves, “he said.” Right now China is really digging its hole in many ways. Sometimes it’s better to let people dig. “

Steven Jiang contributed to the report.

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