China is controlling the flow of information about the situation in Ukraine

China is controlling the flow of information about the situation in Ukraine. A one-minute video of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying calling for peace in Ukraine garnered about 19,100 likes on the popular WeChat social media service. She only made one comment: “If two people around you quarrel and are going to fight, do you hand him a weapon, a gun, or a dagger? Or do you first persuade them not to fight, and then Objectively understand the ins and outs of the conflict and help them solve the problem peacefully? This is a very simple truth.”

China is controlling the flow of information about the situation in Ukraine

Hua Chunying made the above statement at a press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held last week after the Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24. indicated. The passage was quoted on the state-run China Central Television website, and viewers then forwarded it to WeChat. This is an example of how Beijing’s messaging machine works.

Analysts said the spokesman’s remarks and their flow from traditional media to social media were also typical of how news about Ukraine has spread in China over the past 10 days.

Observers say China’s official mass media and state-monitored social media are restricting coverage of the war as part of China’s efforts to promote peace and support Russia’s right to defend its interests. They used the Russian label for the war as “special military operation” instead of the “invasion” term commonly used in the West. Analysts say the domestic media has been given specific orders on how to describe the conflict. On the first day of the war, China’s mass media were ordered not to report unfavorable news to Russia,

according to Radio Free Asia .

Chinese social media is also censoring content, said Yaqiu Wang, a senior China researcher at human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch in New York.

New story, same media control

Experts say coverage of Ukraine reflects the way China has controlled the media since the late 1990s, when the internet became a tool for the public. China has blocked some websites, ordered the removal of certain content, and required mainstream media to report under strict mandates to maintain domestic social order and maintain public confidence in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

Social media is blocking anyone who talks about organizing war-related protests, for whatever reason, and stops posts containing vulgar and sexual comments about Ukrainian women.

“The content they censor is changing, and so are the propaganda they put out,” Wang Yaqiu said. She was referring to the freshness of content driven by the Ukraine issue. But she said, “The way they control hasn’t changed in terms of method, degree or control. It’s just the content that has changed.”

said James Gomez, regional director of Asia Central, a Bangkok-based think tank that works for the Communist Party Continue to manage the media according to a “fixed” structure, “as an important driving force of this narrative”.

“Given the fragmentation of social media, especially within China, these narratives are being pushed out through new platforms like social media. It’s the same news, just being consumed by different platforms and different audiences,” he said. Say.

Support Russia?

Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Daniel Inoue Center for Asia-Pacific Security Studies in Hawaii, said Chinese media downplayed the Ukraine incident by highlighting China’s claimed “neutral” stance in the conflict and shifting the focus to domestic issues. “importance”.

“The Chinese media seem to be banned from using the words ‘war’ or ‘invasion’, so they have to use the official Russian definition, which is ‘special military operations’,” he added.

Sino-Russian ties have grown closer over the past year, but China this week positioned itself as a mediator between warring Russia and Ukraine , rather than a supporter of Moscow.

“As far as I know, people around me are mainly concerned about the developments in the situation in Russia and Ukraine and the impact of this event on global politics and the economy,” a Beijing-born WeChat user told VOA last week. I wish to be named in case his comments caught the attention of Chinese internet censors.

Traditional media meets social media

Like Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s comments on peace, war-related content often moves quickly from news sites to WeChat, Douyin and Weibo — all social platforms based in China , authorities can search for keywords on these platforms.

According to the Voice of America Chinese Department , Chinese filmmaker Louis Liu in Los Angeles posted a photo of himself participating in a local rally against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Weibo, which has accumulated 3.4 million views and 20,000 likes Later, this Weibo was blocked.

Content censors in China allow posts about Ukraine that advocate humanitarianism to remain on social media. On March 2, another Chinese man posted a one-minute video on WeChat calling for more understanding of Ukraine’s history and economic impact, which garnered 39,400 likes and has yet to be deleted. The video says Ukraine’s economy is comparable in size to that of China’s commercial center, Guangdong province. The Ukraine-friendly video features footage of a missile flying through the air and a child crying.

Asia Center’s Gomez said China’s official English-language cable news service, China International Television (CGTN), and online media were publishing brief stories about the war to get social media to repost them. For example, on Monday, China International Television aired a briefing on Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia and the growing number of war refugees, similar to how people outside China receive news.

However, China International Television and other Chinese media also reported on their news homepage on Monday that Russia had announced a list of “unfriendly” countries and regions, including the United States.

The headlines on most news sites are statements from the National People’s Congress, which meets in Beijing this month, and images of the International Paralympic Games, which opened in China last week.

Sunbal Razzaq

Sunbal Razzaq is the founder & CEO of Sunshine Tips.

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