The announcement of a U.S.-Germany deal on Nord Stream 2 last week provoked some criticism from Russian diplomats, who objected to the agreement’s “hostile” stance toward Russia. RIA Novosti also ran at least a couple of articles highlighting online comments posted to German newspaper articles about the agreement, which the outlet used to claim that Germans were “outraged” about stipulations in the agreement related to German support for Ukraine. The most prominent theme in Russia’s ongoing coronavirus vaccine coverage last week emphasized protests against vaccine passports, health passes, and mandatory vaccinations proposed or enacted in Europe. Sputnik France highlighted statements from the Chinese government that vaccination would remain “voluntary” there, seeking to contrast that declaration with developments in France. This fits with Russia’s broader efforts to stir the anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown pot, with several articles highlighting alleged government overreach and social media “censorship” of coronavirus misinformation. Finally, while Russian athletes are competing at the Tokyo Olympics under the team name Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) due to Russia’s ban for state-sponsored doping, Russian diplomats predictably celebrated successful performances by Russian athletes at the games, with three of last week’s top ten most frequently used hashtags related to the Olympics. The Russian embassy in Japan did, however, use the occasion to “call attention” to the Kuril Islands territorial dispute between the two countries, describing the islands as “an inseparable part of the territory of the Russian Federation.” RT also used the Olympics to tweak U.S. culture wars, suggesting that “lefty students” refuse to cheer for Team USA because they “hate America.”
Last week, Chinese officials and state media were focused on covering the severe flooding in Henan Province. “Henan,” “Henan Province,” and “Zhengzhou” (the largest city hit by the floods) were among the most mentioned terms by Twitter accounts monitored on Hamilton last week. Many comments highlighted the heroism of Chinese people in the face of this disaster, as well as the competence of the authorities. The Global Times’ editor-in-chief showed how different Chinese state media’s tone is when covering natural disasters abroad versus at home. The flooding also was used to emphasize China’s global friendships, with spokesperson Zhao Lijian highlighting Putin’s supportive message in Thursday’s press conference and thanking Pakistan for its support on Twitter. Chinese diplomats and state media were also united in their angry reaction to the coordinated accusation by several democratic countries that Beijing’s Ministry of State Security was behind a global hacking campaign. On Twitter, the two most prominent spokespeople at the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry went on the offensive with Hua Chunying accusing U.S.-based malicious botnet servers of controlling “about 4.46 million computers in China” and Zhao Lijian calling the United States the “empire of hacking.” Chinese embassies based in countries that publicly attributed the latest cyber campaign, such as the UK and Canada, issued formal rebuttals. The tone of these rebuttals presented the Chinese state as the victim of a conspiracy with the Chinese embassy in Denmark complaining about “another pre-planned and coordinated anti-China campaign” while its counterpart in the Czech Republic accused the United States and its allies of ganging up on China. State media outlets including China Daily, CCTV, and the Global Times published articles in support of Chinese diplomats, with the latter accusing the West of projecting its own sins on the PRC. Relatedly, an online petition signed by millions of Chinese netizens asking for an investigation into Fort Detrick was reportedly hacked by U.S.-based IP addresses, with Zhao and several state media outlets alleging U.S. government involvement. This accompanied yet another week of Chinese diplomats and state media outlets promoting Fort Detrick conspiracy narratives, with Zhao sharing a Global Times video titled “The Fort Detrick Horror.” Calls for an investigation into the facility were also relayed by the Chinese embassy in France as well as by the Consul General in Cape Town. Finally, in yet another dispute with Western media outlets, the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka, amplified by the Global Times, went after Reuters for allegedly selecting “ugly” photos of Chinese Olympic athletes while presenting effortless “white westerners.”
In its coverage last week of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Press TV ran several stories alleging various schemes by which the United States plans to stay in Iraq indefinitely and reported on the Taliban’s proclamation that only U.S. diplomats can stay in Afghanistan. Press TV also amplified the Nicaraguan government’s condemnation of U.S. involvement in Latin America. A severe drought combined with water mismanagement have led to a crisis in Khuzestan, the Southwestern most province of Iran, where many are protesting water shortages. The Supreme Leader took to Twitter to sympathize with the protesters and denounce mismanagement. Khuzestan has a large Arab population, and Khamenei took pains to emphasize their loyalty to the regime. Hardliner Saeed Jalili also assured protestors that the government is working to solve the problem. Fars News amplified IRGC statements promising overland shipments of water in trucks. Protests in solidarity with Khuzestan took place in the city of Tabriz, which is home to a large Azeri population. No government-linked accounts made any reference to these protests, at which some activists were arrested. In Olympic-related coverage, many Tehran-linked Twitter accounts celebrated Iran’s gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Pistol, won by an IRGC nurse who claims to have served in Syria. Fars News also reported that the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony organizer was fired for “commenting on the Holocaust,” though most international news agencies described the remarks as “joking about the Holocaust.” However, the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo commended the Japanese government for following through with the games “despite the prevalence of Corona and the provision of emergency regulations.” Finally, in coverage of the United States, Press TV reported on a poll finding that most Americans want the history of racism and slavery taught in schools. Press TV also reported that the United States is “experiencing a surge of crime, which could catapult the issue to the top of the political agenda in the near future.”
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.