Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China She mostly tried to publicly distance herself from the carnage of war Without criticizing its leader, President Vladimir Putin. While this remains widely true, observers on the Chinese mainland have noted in recent days that their country’s state-run news media – Like the government itself – He seems to be subtly changing his tone on the war.
Observers say there is a little less emphasis on Russia’s military might, and a bit more on peace talks and civilian casualties from Russian strikes. The popularity of Russian government propaganda on Weibo, a heavily censored Chinese social media network, has also declined. On Thursday, the single most popular item on Weibo about the war was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the US Congress.
Shi YinhongA professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said in an interview on Friday that he has noticed in recent days slight shifts in China’s official discourse on Ukraine.
“This depends on a shift in public opinion” on the Chinese mainland, Professor Shi said.
In the early days of the war, coverage of “Xinwenlianbo”, the evening news program of the state-run CCTV station, mainly emphasized the dominance of the Russian military and its operations in Ukraine. This week, however, there was more footage of Mr. Zelensky – and more direct reference to the Russian attacks.
A similar shift has emerged in coverage of CGTN America, the global arm of China’s state broadcaster.
“Bodies of those killed in Russian bombing were covered across most of Ukraine,” CGTN America He said on Twitter on Friday. “With the number of people fleeing the conflict running into the millions and the Russian bombings continuing, many fear the humanitarian catastrophe is far from over.”
Such publications may not indicate a shift in Chinese foreign policy.
“What China sympathizes with is not Ukraine as a sovereign country, but with the Ukrainian people,” Professor Shi said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 – and even as Russian forces turned to bombing towns and cities – Chinese officials have blamed the United States for the war and echoed Mr. Putin’s criticism of NATO. Chinese diplomats and state media organizations have also exaggerated the Kremlin’s propaganda and Conspiracy theory about biological weapons laboratories funded by the Pentagon in Ukraine.
On Friday, the media in Europe and North America covered this week’s Russian bombing A theater in Mariupol, southern Ukrainea Chinese state radio station broadcast a report on what it said was a Ukrainian missile attack in Donetsk, a Russian-backed separatist region of Ukraine.
Hours before the arrival of Chinese leader Xi Jinping The war in Ukraine is to be discussed with President Joe Biden on Friday, Zhao LijianA Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters that the government was “deeply saddened by the increasing number of civilian casualties and refugees reported by the media.”
“The top priority of all parties is to stop the fighting, exercise restraint, ensure the safety and basic humanitarian needs of civilians, and prevent a wider humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Zhao said at a regular press conference in Beijing.
These comments are largely consistent with a broader pattern. In the past few weeks, the Chinese government has sought to soften its tone a bit on the war by expressing its grief over the civilian casualties and calling for an end to the war – but without blaming Russia or expressing its support for NATO.
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