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Biden officials oppose bio-weapon propaganda from Russia and China

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Biden officials oppose bio-weapon propaganda from Russia and China

WASHINGTON — One of Russia’s most incendiary propaganda campaigns intensified the day before, when its defense and foreign ministries statement issued false claim That the Pentagon was funding biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine.

Then Chinese diplomats and state media organizations repeated the conspiracy theory at news conferences in Beijing, in articles and on official social media accounts.

Now, the Biden White House has taken the extraordinary step of calling both countries on their coordinated propaganda campaign, saying they could provide cover for a possible biological or chemical weapons attack on Ukrainians by the Russian military.

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has backed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or a false one by using them.” flag campaign,” Jen Psaki White House press secretary wrote on Twitter Wednesday evening. “It’s a clear pattern.”

She called the allegations “absurd” and said the United States “does not develop or possess weapons of this kind anywhere.” The State Department called the claim “total nonsense” and said that there is no biological weapons laboratory in Ukraine. Top US intelligence officials reiterated those points in a Senate hearing on Thursday.

The Biden administration and its European and Asian allies find themselves waging an information war against both Russia and China as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin continues his military offensive in Ukraine.

The Chinese government’s promotion of Russian propaganda in the midst of the war has ignited concern among Western officials because of China’s powerful diplomatic position and extensive cyber capabilities. Analysts who studied propaganda from both countries said this was the first time they had seen an expansion of this scale around a conspiracy theory between Beijing and Moscow.

“I can’t think of another active propaganda campaign by Russia that has prompted this level of push from China,” said Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, Washington from China, Russia and Iran. Tracks misinformation in non-profit group. “I haven’t seen this volume around for anything like this.”

It is the latest display of close alignment between Beijing and Moscow, which the two countries said have “no limits” in a 5,000-word statement, when Mr Putin met with Beijing’s President Xi Jinping on February 4. around that time. According to a Western intelligence report, senior Chinese officials asked senior Russian officials not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Since last November, US officials have quietly held talks with Chinese officials, including the ambassador in Washington and the foreign minister, to discuss intelligence showing the build-up of Mr. But he was reprimanded, US officials said.

CIA Director William J. Burns told a Senate hearing on Thursday that he believed Mr. Xi was “disturbed” by the Ukraine war and appeared to not have been told by his intelligence what would happen.

Chinese officials have publicly sided with Russia throughout the war, blaming the United States as the cause of the conflict and emphasizing Mr Putin’s complaints about NATO expansion, while also expressing concerns over the humanitarian crisis. On Tuesday, Mr. Xi reiterated China’s standard negotiating points on the war in a video call with the leaders of France and Germany, although he said China was “deeply saddened by the outbreak of war again on the European continent.” He did not say that Russia has started fighting.

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Using news conferences, state media and social media accounts of diplomats around the world, current and former US officials and independent researchers say China tried to stir up the situation with fiery rhetoric and conspiracy theories rooted in Russian misinformation. Has been doing. As Mr. Xi was speaking to European leaders on Tuesday, Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman whom many Chinese citizens regard as a staunchly patriotic “wolf warrior” diplomat, spoke at a news conference in Beijing in Ukraine. raised the issue of biochemical weapons, noting that “Russia has found during its military operations that the US uses these facilities to conduct bio-military plans.”

“It has 26 bio-labs and other related facilities in Ukraine over which the US Department of Defense has full control,” he said. “All dangerous pathogens in Ukraine must be stored in these laboratories and all research activities are led by the US side.”

Mr Zhao has spread anti-US conspiracy theories to try to criticize China’s poor handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and questions the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s research. He said in March 2020 that the US military may have brought the virus to Wuhan and stressed that research at Fort Detrick, MD, may have been at the root of the pandemic. He mentioned Fort Detrick again on Thursday.

Chinese diplomats, government agencies and state media organizations have used official accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms to spread the Ukraine Labs conspiracy theory. Cao Yi, a diplomat at the Chinese embassy in Beirut, also posted the two in principle on Twitter. Arabic And english,

More than 235 Twitter posts are split equally between Chinese state media accounts and diplomatic or government non-media accounts, Mr Schaefer said. There are many more posts on lab theory on Chinese social media platforms.

Venezuela’s state television network, Telesur, has also extended laboratory theory from Russia, but the activity is modest compared to China, Mr Schaefer said.

“Now that US tech platforms have taken action against Russian state media, Chinese state media are filling the gap,” he said. “They are mirroring Kremlin talking points.”

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank that tracks the Ukraine conflict, also issued a warning Wednesday that Russian statements could be part of Moscow’s effort to lay the groundwork for its chemical or biological attack. “Russia may conduct or create such an attack and blame Ukraine and NATO for justifying additional aggression against Ukraine,” it said.

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Chinese state media have repeated the full range of official Russian statements on the Ukraine war, from the false claim that Ukraine is full of neo-Nazis, to the argument that the United States is an “impire of lies” stretching the strings of Kyiv’s puppets. .

Global Times, a nationalist newspaper published by the Communist Party, posted an article on Tuesday that said the US government was trying to incite anger against China over the Ukraine war by posting stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Voice of the People. Still working. America. Other stories in Chinese state media accused Ukraine of using civilians as human shields, a Kremlin talking point, while avoiding any mention of civilian deaths at the hands of the Russian military.

Censors from Weibo and other Chinese social media companies have removed pro-Ukraine posts on their platforms.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin began promoting greater cooperation between the two countries’ media organizations in 2015, and since then the two governments have held an annual media conference to try to “redefine the map of international discourse”. has done. Chinese media executives express admiration for RT and Sputnik, Russian state media organizations, for their ability to broadcast messages on a global scale.

In the 1950s the two nations were bound by a communist ideology, but then split in politics and foreign policy. President Richard M. Nixon took advantage of this with a historic visit to Beijing in 1972 to normalize diplomatic relations with China. But in recent years, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have strengthened their nations’ ties, driven in large part by a shared perception of the United States and a desire to undermine US global dominance.

The February 4 joint statement contained a lengthy section in which the two countries said they would lead the world in establishing true “democracy”.

Maria Repnikova, a professor of global communications at Georgia State University who studies China and Russia, said this campaign to stand firm against the United States and Western Europe is reflected in both countries’ propaganda and state media stories. Used to be.

“Many of these stories have a strong undercurrent of anti-Western sentiment and flair,” he said. “They are questioning American legitimacy, by using these conspiracy theories.”

On the Ukraine war, he said, “Russian and Chinese propaganda converge about who is to blame, about the roots of the conflict.”

but Some Russian news and commentary on Thursday Ms Repnikova said China’s commitment to Russia was questioned after news agencies reported China refusing to send aircraft parts to the country. Boeing and Airbus broke ties with Russian airlines after the Biden administration and the European Union imposed sanctions.

Big Chinese companies will follow the sanctions to avoid jeopardizing their global business. For China, Europe and the United States are much larger trading partners than Russia.

Steven Lee Myers Contributed reporting from Beijing.


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