Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration are using the coronavirus crisis to spread conspiracy theories in a bid to “subvert the West” and create a new world order, a new report has alleged.
Russia has been “churning out propaganda that blames the West for creating the virus,” CNBC reports. The report’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said the state was propagating disinformation and conspiracy theories via social media accounts, fake news outlets, state-controlled media, pseudo-scientists and Russians living in the West.
“Russia seeks to seriously damage the solidarity among EU members and capitalize on any internal European weaknesses to promote broader conflicts,” the report states. “COVID-19 is seen as an ideal way for Russia to deal a powerful blow not only to the EU, but to inflict damage on the ties between Europe and its North American allies.”
The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House that Beijing under-reported both total cases and deaths from the coronavirus, according to a Bloomberg News report.
“Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) honorary board member.
The Chinese government’s obfuscation and censorship of news about the virus’ risk has been widely blamed for contributing to its later spread throughout China and around the world, where it has now infected close to a million people and killed more than 45,000, notes China Digital Times:
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed new Chinese government tactics in pushing questionable conspiracy theories abroad along with specific propaganda and disinformation narratives, similar to techniques long used by Russia, The New York Times reports:…. Vanessa Molter and Graham Webster track the origins of the Chinese disinformation campaign around COVID-19 for Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center.
At the very moment that Beijing endeavors to promote itself as a responsible global player with an attractive governance model that renders it capable and willing to be a go-to provider of public goods, China’s leaders are engaging in increasingly irresponsible behavior online—behavior that looks much more like Russia’s, notes Jessica Brandt, head of research and policy at the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
We are witnessing a remarkable effort to marry soft power with sharp power. How and whether it proceeds will have implications for the information contest now underway between autocrats and democrats, and the fate of the liberal international order that depends on its outcome, she writes in a new Power 3.0 blog post on “Beijing’s Viral Disinformation Activities”
China’s decision to send medical staff and equipment to Europe to fight the coronavirus was a “geopolitical exercise,” one observer notes.
This is not mere altruism; it is a demonstration of China’s will to play the role of ascending hegemon and capitalise on the growing void left by the US, Javi López writes for the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The Asian powerhouse is determined to gain new centrality in a global system traditionally organised around the Atlantic alliance, he adds. This presents a huge challenge to the global order, as the Chinese model is in tension with our democratic vision of governance.
China, Russia and Iran are spreading disinformation about COVID-19 as a means to wage political warfare against the United States, according to the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC).
Interestingly, “during the crisis, we’ve seen Russian, Chinese, and Iranian state disinformation and propaganda ecosystems all converge around some disinformation themes intended to promote their own agendas,” said Lea Gabrielle, the GEC’s special envoy and coordinator. China’s, “global messaging apparatus, which includes state media as well as Chinese diplomats, to push out selected and localized versions of the same overarching false narratives,” Gabrielle told a recent press conference.