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"Ukrainians’ atrocities": How China lied about Bucha massacre but disappointed Russia with fear of sanctions

The Page collage

The Page collage

China is trying to avoid the U.S. sanctions but is lying about the war in Ukraine

China has disappointed Russia by not being in a hurry to help it resist sanctions over the war in Ukraine. At the same time, Beijing itself is losing confidence in the West and, if not economically, then informationally disseminates Kremlin propaganda in the media controlled by the authorities.

The Page analyzes how ambiguous the "multi-vector" position of China is, and one moment China is building a new "democratic" world together with Moscow, and then the next moment is looking for new oil sellers so as not to become a victim of the European and U.S. sanctions.


Why China is little reluctant tot to help Russia

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As The Page already reported citing Sky News, the Kremlin was becoming increasingly frustrated with China's unwillingness to actively help Putin's murderous regime.

Recent discussions between the countries have been tense, although Beijing is verbally supporting Moscow, trying to build a strong relationship with it so that it is not affected by sanctions against the Russian Federation and its allies.

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Xi Jinping is unwilling to provide unlimited assistance to Russia, stressing that his team will always act in the interests of the people. The U.S. also says it doesn't see much help from China for Russia, and this raises concerns in the Kremlin.

We have already explained that it is beneficial for China to end the war between Russia and Ukraine as soon as possible because Beijing maintains strong ties with Moscow and Kyiv. In addition, its trade with Russia was $147 billion in 2021, while trade with the U.S. was $657 billion and with the EU — $828 billion.

Also, Ivan Kompan, the founder of the First Kyiv Investment Club, expressed the opinion in a column for The Page that the likelihood of China's active support of Russia in the war against Ukraine was small.

Fearing a confrontation with the West, the country's leadership even ordered a "stress test" to study the impact of possible sanctions against Beijing of the same level as against Russia.

China's distrust of the "collective West"

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In terms of strategic assessment of Russia's war in Ukraine, China has increased distrust of the West, writes The Guardian.

Although Beijing does not want to be cast in the same light as the Russian Federation, it is displeased with the latest U.S. efforts to help Taiwan.

The outlet reports that China’s tone has also evolved: in the last few weeks, began to call Western sanctions "financial terrorism" and "economic weaponisation."

Quote"The war in Ukraine has intensified the confrontation between the U.S. and China. It also further highlighted the differences between us China and France, Germany, Britain, and Japan," says Prof Yan Xuetong, director of the institute of international studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

In his opinion, shared by other scientists, in particular Liu Yawei, senior adviser on China at the Atlanta-based Carter Centre, bipolarisation in the new world order is not tilting in China’s favor.

War against U.S. values

Liberal voices within China have become less capable to counterbalance against the growing influence of hardline views, Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains.

Quote"They see China’s future as resting with working with other like-minded countries to more proactively push back against the US-led western order, norms, and values," he noted.

Liu Yawei adds that even if China condemned Russia at the level of the United States, the fundamentals in the bilateral relations would not change.

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Commenting on Antony Blinken's speech that Washington would shape a "strategic environment around Beijing," he stressed that this was evidence that the United States had chosen China as its ultimate challenger.

Putin's counter-strike and "Ukraine of the Orient"

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Public opinion was also on the side of the hawks: according to a Carter Center poll, 75% of Chinese citizens consider supporting Russia to be in the country's national interest. At the same time, 60% of those polled a few weeks ago expected China to play a role in mediating an end to the war.

There is also a growing view among hardliners that the conflict is a "proxy war" between Russia and the West.

Quote"Russia-Ukraine ‘conflict’ is Putin’s counter-strike against the US-led west’s plan to dismember Russia," declared Qiu Wenping of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Moreover, the United States also wants to dismember China, the scientist believes: they are manipulating the Taiwan issue and fanning the fire in order to create a "Ukraine of the Orient".

"Ukrainians directed a good show" in Bucha

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Although Beijing does not help Russia economically in order to avoid sanctions, in terms of propaganda, it actually lent its shoulder to its ally, SPEKA analyzes Chinese media outlets.

Shortly before the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese authorities ordered local media to use only official sources of information. What is meant here are People's Daily outlet, Xinhua agency, and China Central Television, which have been partners of Russian state media for many years.

These media have been broadcasting propaganda messages from the Kremlin since the beginning of the invasion. The Page, citing CNN, wrote that on April 6, when the Western world was horrified by the pictures from Bucha, Chinese state media quoted Russian claims that the Ukrainians "directed a good show."

At a UN Security Council session, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun called the photos from Bucha "deeply disturbing" but urged all parties to "avoid baseless accusations."

Ukraine is on fire that cannot be extinguished

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CNN also recently analyzed about 5,000 Chinese state media posts in the first 8 days of the invasion on the Weibo social network that has nearly 0.5 billion unique users.

Of the 300 most popular posts, 140 were obviously pro-Russian, 90 were neutral, and only 15 posts portrayed Ukraine in a positive light.

A third of the posts were aggressively set against the United States and the West: the message was actively promoted that it was the States or NATO that had provoked Russia to invade Ukraine.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in the early days of the all-out war, Chinese diplomats and official sources also:

  • accused the West of inciting war (20.4% of messages);
  • called for peace (17.9%);
  • spoke out against sanctions (5.6% of messages).

Here is the propaganda image most popular with Chinese diplomats in the first 8 days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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Caption: Why isn't China helping us put out this flame?

"Nazis" in Ukraine and Zelenskyy's "flight"

Chinese state media, citing Western sources, rewrote the original in such a way that it could not be recognized. For example, "the atrocities of the Russian military in Bucha" turned into "the atrocities of the Ukrainians."

This is how the government-controlled South Review quoted The Guardian article about the Bucha massacre. The Chinese also attributed the Tochka-U strike against Kramatorsk to the Ukrainian military.

The state media of Beijing, copying Russian propaganda, wrote in the early days of the war that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had fled Kyiv. This lie was spread by the state channel CCTV, 163 local media outlets reposted it, and the video on the Weibo platform was viewed 510 million times.

State media also reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had been laying down their arms en masse, and Putin had been "cleansing Ukraine of the Nazis," where dangerous American biological laboratories operate. This outright nonsense was spread by CCTV and the newspapers The People's Daily and Global Times.

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Cheap advertising for India and Pakistan

It is important that CCTV, China Daily, People's Daily, and Global Times also post pro-Russian propaganda ads on Facebook targeting Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

For instance, CCTV paid less than $100 to spread Xi Jinping's words about the situation in Ukraine, and obtained nearly 900,000 impressions.

Numerous cheap advertisements posted by the Chinese media blame the collective West for the war. Moreover, according to the Brookings Institution, China manipulates search results to spread narratives that are convenient for it.

Countering Chinese propaganda

The U.S. Department of State, as well as the European Union through the EUvsDisinfo agency (writes articles in Chinese), are working to reveal the truth about Russian propaganda in the Chinese media.

Among others, The Great Translation, an anonymous volunteer project that exposes Chinese media propaganda by several hundred volunteers from around the world, and the Hamilton 2.0 project from the Alliance for Securing Democracy, are working to expose Chinese lies.

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The project collects statistics of messages from Russian, Chinese, and Iranian state media in social networks.

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There are also some Chinese figures who openly oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  • former Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine Gao Yusheng (mentions of his position were removed from Chinese networks);
  • five Chinese historians who wrote an open letter condemning the Russian invasion: Nanjing University professor Sun Jiang, Peking University professor Wang Lixin, Hong Kong University professor Xu Guoqi, Tsinghua historian Zhong Weimin, and Chen Yan from Fudan University (the letter has already been removed by Chinese censorship);
  • Chinese programmer Wang Jixian, who lives in Odesa, Ukraine and posts daily videos in Chinese on YouTube, WeChat, and Douyin (the blogger's accounts were blocked on Chinese platforms).

Are narratives in Chinese media "getting warmer"?

It is still too early to talk about a change in the information feed of news about the war to Ukraine from Beijing.

But it should be noted that on April 30, the Xinhua agency released an interview with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who had harshly criticized the actions of the Kremlin. True, this interview came out after a conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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Radio Svoboda journalists suggest that the interview with Kuleba may indicate a gradual change in narratives about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But so far, no noticeable turn is visible.

On the other hand, numerous publications in recent weeks indicate that Beijing (as, admittedly, Putin himself and Western countries) did not expect such a fierce resistance from the Ukrainian people and the army and now refrains from strongly supporting the Kremlin.

Apparently, the stress test showed that the Chinese economy will not last long if it falls under the same sanctions as Russia.

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