Russian, Chinese, and Iranian state media and government accounts once again took aim at the United States last week, with the most pointed commentary coming from China and Iran.
On July 31, a series of tweets from the Supreme Leader of Iran’s many foreign language accounts highlighted efforts to unify global audiences (including those in the United States) against U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps the best summation of these messages came from his Russian-language account: “To lobby for its goals, the U.S. government needs an enemy. Sometimes they call Iran as an enemy, another time – China, and sometimes – Russia. But the main enemy of the U.S. government is the people of this country, and this people will ultimately destroy the current U.S. system.” As always, criticism of the United States was a recurrent theme in Iranian messaging that touched on subjects ranging from escalating tensions with China to U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. These narratives were particularly salient in messaging from its popular Spanish-language media outlet HispanTV.
The drumbeat of anti-American messaging was also a central theme in China’s outputs last week, with foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying using a memeified version of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s now infamous “we lied, we cheated, we stole” quote to challenge the credibility of the Trump administration. This more aggressive trolling likely came in response to the U.S. government’s decision to close the Chinese consulate in Houston, a decision that both Hua and Li Baorong, China’s Ambassador to Venezuela, labelled as “violating the Vienna Convention.” Chinese state media also played a role in attacking the competence of the Trump administration, with CGTN blasting the president’s promotion of coronavirus cures promoted by a doctor with a history of making controversial and outlandish statements: “Trump’s pandemic pick: Dr. ‘demon sex’ over Fauci.” While there was relatively little coverage of the tech hearings in the U.S. last week, China Daily’s Chen Weihua and diplomats in Pakistan and Lebanon (among others) took clear offense at Mark Zuckerberg’s criticism of China.
Russian interest in the tech hearings was also limited, but state media reported on a GOP congressmen accusing the tech companies of anti-conservative bias, as well as Trump floating the possibility of using executive orders to “bring fairness to Big Tech.” Russian state media’s most interesting coverage last week was the detention of more than 30 members of Russian private military company Wagner Group in Belarus for allegedly planning to disrupt the upcoming election there. Russian officials’ reactions were somewhat muted, reflecting a pattern of relative silence when it comes to discussing the actions of a group whose affiliation with the Kremlin the Russian government denies. Russian officials did offer customary denials through state-backed media outlets, though without the traditional bellicose rhetoric directed at western “provocations.” A TASS headline exemplified this difficult diplomatic tightrope routine, as the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs prodded Minsk to “stop escalating negative emotions.” Russia also provided limited coverage of the U.S. election last week, though RT amplified an internal investigation led by new U.S. Agency for Global Media chief Michael Pack into possible “election interference” committed by Voice of America’s Urdu service after it ran a clip of a Joe Biden campaign ad.