Hamilton 2.0 is an interactive tool that monitors the outputs of Chinese and Russian state media and government officials across a range of social media platforms. The weekly report provides a summary analysis of the most salient topics and narratives promoted by state-backed actors during the specified date range.
Monitored Russian accounts tweeted 14,291 times from January 4 and January 10, generating 108,792 retweets and 399,019 likes.
Russian propagandists sent more than 500 tweets last week about the failed coup in Brazil, which supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro staged in an attempt to oust President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed solidarity with Lula, while state media accounts labeled the insurrectionists as “neo-fascists” and showed them beating policemen and their horses. Russian intelligence-linked outlets drew comparisons between the January 6, 2021 US insurrection and the Brazilian coup attempt, with SouthFront calling the latter “Capitol Hill in Flamenco Sauce”. One RT contributor, though, took issue with that comparison. Fiorella Isabel argued that the US insurrection was inspired by corrupt election processes, but Brazilian elections were open and trustworthy. Isabel insisted that US meddling sparked the violence in Brasilia. At least four other Russian state media contributors spread similar disinformation on Twitter about US government involvement in the Brazilian insurrection. Cristina Martin Jimenez, an RT en Español presenter, argued that “chaos rules the world and the elites rub their hands together”.
Kremlin-linked accounts relayed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a ceasefire with Ukraine during Orthodox Christmas and bashed Kyiv for refusing to accept the temporary pause in hostilities. RT host Afshin Rattansi retweeted US right-wing commentator Jackson Hinkle claiming that “Ukrainian terrorists disregarded” the ceasefire “less than a minute after it took effect”. Fiorella Isabel pushed that time back slightly, claiming that bombing resumed 30 minutes after the ceasefire was supposed to begin. Russia’s ambassador to Venezuela held up Ukraine’s decision to defend itself against an invading nation as “proof that Zelensky does not care about the holy day, nor the lives of his own people”. When US President Joe Biden criticized the ceasefire proposal, Russia’s Embassy in Spain quipped, “Another American nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize?”
State media accounts criticized news that the United States, France, and Germany would be supplying Ukraine with armored fighting vehicles, but their complaints gained little traction on Twitter. Only a single state media tweet mentioning either “armored” or “tank” gained more than 100 retweets. Tass repackaged reporting in independent Western media outlets to claim that the armored vehicle shipments “crossed a red line” and proved the “West is not set up for a peaceful settlement”. The Strategic Culture Foundation, which is linked to Russian intelligence, wrote that the West was sending tanks to support “a regime that openly glorifies its Nazi collaborators”. Kremlin-backed outlets also continued to frame the West as militarizing and “thirsty for Russian blood”.
Moscow-directed outlets were generally quiet about Russia’s intense assault on the city of Bakhmut. Last week, the Russian diplomats and state media accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 sent only 24 tweets that mention “Bakhmut”. A handful of tweets claimed that Russia liberated the city.
Russian propagandists did not push a high volume of content about the Republican Party’s struggle to elect a speaker of the House, but Kremlin-affiliated accounts did joke about the crisis and note that key Republican lawmakers have suggested limiting aid to Ukraine. One state media personality sarcastically tweeted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had been elected speaker of the House, while another claimed that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó had been elected. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev posted a cartoon that showed a Republican elephant and Democratic donkey struggling to pull a Ukrainian pig. RT noted that the newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had reportedly agreed to cap aid to Ukraine, while RIA Novosti said that a Republican rules package that could reduce US defense spending was “bad news for Kiev”.
Kremlin-linked media also took aim at President Biden. As Biden visited the southern border, state-backed outlets accused him of having a “stage-managed” tour and claimed that he was unable to find his way around a tarmac without his wife’s help. RT en Español amplified quotes arguing that Biden’s visit was “two years late” and that his policies had “emboldened cartels”. State media also highlighted points of tension between the United States and Mexico before a summit that brought together leaders from the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Russia-affiliated accounts also jumped on news that a handful of classified documents had been found in a private office used by Biden, though these accounts offered little original criticism of Biden’s apparent mismanagement of documents. Instead, they reupped right-wing attacks on Biden, including those coming from former President Donald Trump.
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 16,592 times from January 4 and January 10, pulling in 68,311 retweets and 248,026 likes.
Covid, Coronavirus, and COVID-19
Covid-related key phrases and hashtags were exceptionally frequent in tweets from Chinese diplomats and state media last week. Over that period, “COVID” was the most frequent key phrase by far, with more than double the mentions of the phrase “new year”. (“COVID19” and “coronavirus” also were among top ten key phrases.) Similarly, “COVID19” was the most frequent hashtag in tweets from the Chinese network monitored on Hamilton 2.0 last week, with “COVID”, “COVID_19”, and “coronavirus” all in the top ten most frequent hashtags.
Much of the covid-related messaging broadcast by Chinese diplomats and state media last week praised Beijing’s handling of the re-opening, notably highlighting foreign experts’ and diplomats’ approval of the Chinese government’s measures. As with last week, Chinese officials and state media continued to describe the government’s current coronavirus response as “optimized”. There were more than 250 uses of the words “optimized” or “optimization” last week.
Chinese official messaging, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), criticized the restrictions placed on Chinese travelers by other countries, with China Daily explicitly singling out US measures and the ambassador to Iceland calling such restrictions “discrimination”.
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying and state-run news agency Xinhua accused China’s critics, especially the United States, of hypocrisy. The consul general in Belfast was even more pointed and accused “Western media” of following “clicks and cash”.
Hua Chunying and the MFA’s official account also sought to divert attention away from the rising cases in China by drawing attention to the latest XBB.1.5 variant currently spreading throughout the United States.
The chaotic speaker of the House nomination process provided significant fodder for Chinese diplomats and state media figures, who, in their more editorialized coverage, cited the process as evidence of the failures of US democracy. Others criticized the democratic nature of the vote itself, with the consul general in Osaka retweeting a tweet that questioned why Democrat Hakeem Jeffries wasn’t awarded the speakership given that he had received more votes in an earlier round.
CGTN opinion account T-House warned that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-MD), would paint China as a “political bogeyman”. This sentiment was shared by individuals affiliated with Chinese state media and diplomats, with the former warning that China “should also have a few ‘hawks’ that can bite the US”. The consul general in Kolkata took issue with McCarthy’s alleged “hatred towards a country [China] who’s [sic] brought his state California tremendous jobs”. The account, presumably mistakenly, referred to the speaker as Joseph McCarthy, the disgraced former senator from Wisconsin and the inspiration for the term “McCarthyism”. Chen Weihua, the editor of China Daily Europe, also asked, presumably earnestly, if “this McCarthy [is] related to the notorious Joseph McCarthy?”
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