Washington: The United States accused China and Russia of strengthening cooperation to spread false narratives about the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, saying that Beijing is increasingly using Moscow-honed technology.
“Even before the COVID-19 crisis we assessed a certain level of coordination between Russia and the PRC in the realm of propaganda,” said Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the State Department s Global Engagement Center, which tracks foreign propaganda.
“But with this pandemic the cooperation has accelerated rapidly,” she told reporters.
“We see this convergence as a result of what we consider to be pragmatism between the two actors who want to shape public understanding of the COVID pandemic for their own purposes,” she said.
The Global Engagement Center said earlier that thousands of social media accounts linked to Russia are spreading conspiracies about the pandemic, including allegations that the virus was first discovered in the Chinese metropolis Wuhan last year and was made in the United States of.
When a Foreign Ministry spokesperson conspired on Twitter, saying that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan, China angered the United States. However, after President Donald Trump held a telephone conversation with his President Xi Jinping, the two countries reached an informal truce in late March.
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s theory that the virus originated in the Wuhan laboratory, tensions soared again, and Beijing in turn called this view false information.
The top epidemiologists of the World Health Organization and the US government say there is no evidence that the virus came from the laboratory, and most scientists say the virus appeared in the Wuhan meat market where slaughtered exotic animals.
Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai recently branded what he said was “objective facts such as false information and propaganda.”
Cui wrote in the “Washington Post”: “Behind the thought of blaming China forever is a kind of dirty politics, and a few people support political interests.
Xi Jinping discussed cooperation on the pandemic on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Putin told him that Russia “opposes the attempts by some troops to blame China on the pretext of an epidemic and will resolutely stand on the side of China.”
From Venezuela to the use of economic sanctions to disarm, China and Russia often find common causes and conflicts with the United States.
According to the Global Participation Center, China has once again strengthened its online activities to defend against the pandemic. The pandemic has killed some 270,000 people worldwide and criticized the United States.
“Beijing is adapting in real time and increasingly using techniques that have long been employed by Moscow,” Gabrielle said.
China has increasingly used bot networks to amplify its message, Gabrielle said.
She said that official Chinese diplomatic Twitter accounts suddenly witnessed a surge in late March, going from adding around 30 new followers daily to more than 720, often from freshly created accounts.
She said China was first observed using such online methods to “sow political discord” in its autonomous territory of Hong Kong, which has witnessed major pro-democracy demonstrations.
Gabrielle said Russia and China found a “convergence of narratives” on the coronavirus, although it was not possible to know the extent of coordination.
“I think there are some examples where we have basically seen a narrative pushed out by a state actor then repeated by another one,” she said.
“So we re certainly seeing them bounce off of each other and essentially play together in the information space.”