China is spreading pro-Russian messaging as part of a campaign to pump disinformation around the world, a US special envoy has claimed. Beijing has reportedly spent billions on the campaign and the West has been accused of a slow response. A US state department body set up to “expose and counter” foreign propaganda and disinformation made the accusations.
James Rubin, a coordinator for the Global Engagement Center, told reporters during a European tour this week: “The well has been poisoned by Chinese and Russian disinformation – it’s pernicious.”
He added: “We as a nation and the west have been slow to respond and it is a fair judgment that we are facing a very, very large challenge….In the communication space, the alignment between China and Russia is near complete.”
Mr Rubin claimed Russia and China were spending billions of dollars to spread false information but said Beijing was operating on a global scale and pumping in more cash in its efforts compared to Moscow.
He also warned that China has been “repeating and promulgating the arguments of Russia about the war that it was started by NATO”.
This comes after US department of state spokesperson Ned Price accused China “very clearly” taking Russia’s side with regard to the war in Ukraine. This is despite Beijing claiming to to be in support of peace.
But Mr Price said that anything but an honest broker”, citing US intelligence that China could be considering arming Russia and ending its policy of “playing both sides”.
Mr Price said: “The People’s Republic of China [PRC] has told the world that, essentially, it is not taking a position [over Ukraine], but rather it has tried to portray itself as an honest broker. In word and in deed, however, the PRC has been anything but an honest broker.”
But China has repeatedly denied accusations that it might be planning on arming Russia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning claimed: “On the Ukraine issue, China supports an objective and just position and actively promotes peace talks. The U.S., however, has been fanning the flames and fueling the fight with more weaponry.”
She also threw the accusations that the Chinese are spreading misinformation right back in Washington’s face.
The spokesperson said that “the U.S. has been spreading disinformation about China supplying weapons to Russia and using the allegation to sanction Chinese enterprises, adding that this is a “double standard and the very definition of hypocrisy.”
Meanwhile, National security adviser Jake Sullivan admitted on Sunday that the White House had is yet to see concrete evidence of Chinese arms being sent to Russia. But he warned that doing so would be against Beijing’s best interests.
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He told NBC News: “I think it would alienate them from a number of countries in the world, including our European allies.”
However, Mr Rubin echoed Mr Price’s concerns and warned that the disinformation is having an impact. He said: “Some countries in the global south can’t even admit that it’s an invasion, let alone decide which side they are on”.
“For some African countries, for some Asian countries, Ukraine is a war far away. They believe that they don’t get enough attention from the west, period, all of them. That makes some of them look at this war through that lens.”
This comes after China unveiled a 12-point proposal calling for a cease-fire between Kyiv and Moscow. It also called for peace talks and an end to the harsh Western sanctions slapped down on Russia.
While US and European officials have said the Chinese plan is too favourable to Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is keen to discuss it with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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