Last week, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published two draft treaties—one for NATO and the other for the United States—that listed a series of demands that would limit the alliance’s presence in Eastern Europe. The recommended agreements, which come amid escalating tension around the conflict in Ukraine, include demands that NATO rule out expansion and remove troops from states that joined the alliance after 1997, such as Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. Russian state media amplified the treaties, along with the Foreign Ministry’s warning of “dire consequences” if NATO expands eastward. RT quoted Russia’s deputy foreign minister, who stated that NATO has two paths: “take seriously what we put on the table, or deal with a military-technical alternative.” The Foreign Ministry tweeted that it is “futile” to suggest Russia has no right to veto new NATO members. Diplomatic accounts claimed that NATO expansion is an “anti-European idea” driven by the United States. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added that NATO is “doing everything it can to destabilise” Europe, pointing directly to the blocs’ support for Ukrainian military personnel, which she said includes “downright neo-Nazis.”
Russian officials and state media also paid close attention to developments in Germany. Moscow-backed accounts were livid about YouTube’s decision to remove a new German-language RT channel for violating restrictions that YouTube had placed on the outlet. RT argued Germany was “waging a media war” against Russia, and Russia’s media regulator warned it could block access to YouTube if the German-language channel was not restored. Kremlin-linked accounts also pushed back against a German court’s conviction of a Russian man for murdering a Kremlin opponent in Berlin in 2019 and the German government’s accompanying decision to expel two Russian diplomats. Zakharova argued that the guilty verdict was “an explicitly political put-up job” and promised an “adequate response” to the “unfriendly act.” (Russia has since expelled two German diplomats).
Meanwhile, state media used surging gas prices in Europe to push for Germany’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. RT argued delaying Nord Stream 2’s launch could “further spur prices” and elevated comments by an Austrian official who said Germany risks “a complete loss of credibility” if it caves to U.S. pressure on the pipeline.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping drew limited coverage. Putin declared Moscow and Beijing’s relationship “a true example of interstate cooperation in the twenty first century.” State media celebrated Putin and Xi’s agreement to establish an “independent financial structure that cannot be influenced” by the West. The two leaders also discussed deepening ties in energy, technology, and trade. Putin told Xi he’d be willing to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics (despite Russia still being officially banned from competing at the games), while state media claimed that the decision by some democratic states to boycott the games “reeks of ‘disgusting hypocrisy.’” Kremlin-funded outlets also highlighted Xi’s support for Russia’s demands to limit NATO’s role in Europe.
Last week, nine of the ten most retweeted tweets from the network of Chinese Twitter accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 were posted by the Chinese Consul in Beirut, Cao Yi, and featured his trademark #NoMore hashtag campaign. While the most retweeted and liked tweet focused on the conflict in Ethiopia, others took direct aim at the United States, with one calling out U.S. hypocrisy over slavery/Xinjiang forced labor and another denouncing U.S. military interventions by featuring a graphic image of a maimed child being offered a piece of candy by an American soldier. Cao’s engagement numbers and activity last week were extraordinary for a diplomat; he posted twice as many tweets as and received more than twice as many likes and four times as many retweets as the second most active and engaged-with Chinese diplomatic accounts. Last Thursday, Cao boasted about his newfound Twitter fame as he shared an inspirational quote—“Everything comes to you at the right time, be patient”—in English and Arabic.
With the Beijing Winter Olympics drawing near, the sporting event has become a bigger topic of conversation for Chinese diplomats and officials in recent weeks. “Beijing2022” was the most frequent key phrase and hashtag in diplomatic tweets last week. The U.S.-led diplomatic boycott also remained a clear irritant. Countries that have announced boycotts were ridiculed (with the notable exception of Japan), while countries that have declined to join the boycott were praised (notably France, South Korea, and South Africa). State media and diplomats amplified Russia and Mongolia’s criticism of the boycott and highlighted international praise of China’s organizational skills.
Chinese diplomats last week also marked the grim anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, during which the Japanese Imperial Army killed as many as 300,000 Chinese people. It was the eighth year the anniversary was commemorated, a tradition inaugurated under Xi in 2014. A diplomat in Pakistan shared artwork on Twitter that summed up the general tone of the commemorations: “Never forget national humiliation, Cherish Peace.” Other diplomats chose the more moderate moto: “Never forget history, cherish peace.”
The Summit for Democracy also remained a top messaging target last week. On Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson Wang Wenbin explained that no one had watched the summit. On Tuesday, he mentioned the summit in the context of recent revelations surrounding drone killings. And on Wednesday, his colleague Zhao Lijian implied that China had peeled Nicaragua away from diplomatic relations with Taiwan while the United States was busy hosting the summit.
Less coverage was given to Sunday’s elections in Hong Kong, which featured the lowest voter turnout on record. Election coverage was published predominantly in Mandarin, indicating that messages about pro-Beijing reforms to the electoral system or the ever-present threat of foreign interference were mainly targeted at Hong Kong citizens.
Continuing a weeks-long trend of attacking Lithuania after the Baltic country upgraded diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian tweeted a video on Tuesday showing chaotic conditions at the Lithuanian border, highlighting the country’s alleged use of “extreme measures.”
Finally, Hu Xijin, the longtime editor in chief of Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times announced last Thursday that he was retiring. A wolf-warrior before the term existed, China’s “troll king” was one of the most confrontational (and popular) state media figures on Twitter.
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