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China's messaging on the Ukraine conflict

By Samantha Hoffman and Matthew Knight

In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, social media posts by Chinese diplomats on US platforms almost exclusively blamed the US, NATO and the West for the conflict. Chinese diplomats amplified Russian disinformation about US biological weapon labs in Ukraine, linking this narrative with conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19. Chinese state media mirrored these narratives, as well as replicating the Kremlin’s language describing the invasion as a ‘special military operation’.

ASPI found that China’s diplomatic messaging was distributed in multiple languages, with its framing tailored to different regions. In the early stage of the conflict, tweets about Ukraine by Chinese diplomats performed better than unrelated content, particularly when the content attacked or blamed the West. ASPI’s research suggests that, in terms of its international facing propaganda, the Russia–Ukraine conflict initially offered the party-state’s international-facing propaganda system an opportunity to reassert enduring preoccupations that the Chinese Communist Party perceives as fundamental to its political security.