You’d think that everyone would be united in the fight against the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Chinese. But based on research into the Chinese state media’s messaging, propaganda, and influence on the narrative surrounding coronavirus COVID-19, it appears that China has a more insidious agenda in mind than being forthcoming with the truth.
Put it another way, the Chinese state media’s propaganda and attempts to influence everyone’s perception of them makes Australia’s own coronavirus COVID-19’s messaging seem competent.
Speaking of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic (Chinese or otherwise), the GOAT team talk about staying connected with loved ones on ‘It’s Been A Big Day For…’ below:
Cybersecurity company Recorded Future analysed the social media activity in China and other operations run by the Chinese state media in the months leading up to and during the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and found that China is using its media influence and propaganda to shift the blame for the pandemic while painting itself as the global leader in containing the disease.
Recorded Future found several suss things that the Chinese state media has done in an attempt to sway the narrative, starting with not addressing the existence of coronavirus COVID-19 until January 9, 2020, which was several days after the outbreak in Wuhan and coincidentally the same day the World Health Organisation announced that it was a thing.
After initially communicating that China was being transparent and helpful to the international community, the messaging and propaganda from the Chinese state media and social media accounts began transitioning from coronavirus COVID-19 updates towards slowly putting the blame onto Western countries as the disease began to spread overseas, all while portraying China and its Xi Jinping as the leader you want to follow during this crisis.
Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, best summed up China’s intentions to BuzzFeed News: “China’s larger strategic goals, under which all of this rolls up, are to convince the world and make the world feel comfortable in China’s ascendancy.”
It’s not just Recorded Future who found suss stuff happening in China as a study from another research organisation, Citizen Lab, found that the Chinese government were actively censoring content (including critical and neutral info) related to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, criticism and neutral comments about the government, comments on the response as reported by Chinese state media, and any references to Dr. Li Wenliang (who discovered the disease but was stopped from blowing the whistle).
We all know China likes being, uh, economical with the truth quite often, but it seems that even a global pandemic like coronavirus COVID-19 isn’t enough for the country to use its state media, influence and propaganda in good faith.
This whole messaging strategy is insidious and, perhaps most worryingly, proving to be somewhat effective. Moriuchi noted that the slow trickle of pro-China content and propaganda from Chinese state media and social media is working as the messaging doesn’t outwardly say “China is great” but instead attempts to show it. It’s the number one rule of visual storytelling: show don’t tell.
With the amount of misinformation going around with regards to the coronavirus COVID-19, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant and to stay critical about everything you see or hear about the pandemic.
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