Kremlin-linked accounts continued to argue that Western sanctions weren’t impacting Russia’s economy but were driving inflation in the West and prompting a global food shortage. President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian economy was “resisting the blow of sanctions,” while diplomats pointed to a new hike in Russia’s minimum wage, and state media harped on the strength of the ruble. Putin also stressed that Russia remains open to global trade and said Moscow will double down on its economic partnerships. Meanwhile, RT-linked accounts tied the “Western proxy war against Russia” to inflation across the West, said Ukrainian oligarchs were behind lobbying efforts to impose sanctions, and amplified a poll that showed Americans becoming less supportive of measures against the Russian economy. State media also argued that Western sanctions and macroeconomic blunders were sparking a global food crisis. Russia’s Embassy in South Africa tweeted, “Millions of people will have to go hungry because of geopolitical ambitions, egotism, and stupidity of [the] collective West.”
The volume of posts about Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO dropped significantly last week compared to the week prior. Both countries fell off the list of the ten most mentioned countries by Kremlin-affiliated accounts. The limited commentary claimed that NATO and the United States pushed the Nordic states to join the alliance and that NATO accession would make Finland and Sweden less secure. RT amplified domestic criticism within Finland, including by giving airtime to someone who had “recently burned the alliance’s flag.” State-backed outlets also highlighted Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden’s membership.
Diplomatic accounts also continued to blame Ukraine for committing war crimes. On May 25, Russia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs promoted a conference where “eyewitness evidence of the Kiev regime’s war crimes” was presented. One diplomat pointed his followers to a collection of more than 300 testimonies to Ukraine’s alleged human right abuses. Other government accounts shared links to a new website called warcrimesofkiev.com. State media and diplomats tweeted about “Nazis” more than 200 times. One of the top performing “Nazi” tweets claimed that a Ukrainian fighter shot the parents of a fleeing family.
Outside of the conflict in Ukraine, Kremlin-linked accounts covered the first round of Colombia’s presidential election, which advanced the leftist Senator Gustavo Petro and right-wing populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández to a runoff election. Russian state media detailed the candidates, their use of TikTok as a campaign tool, the views of both hopeful and apathetic voters, and rumors that the vote would be suspended. Sputnik called political violence the “protagonist” of the campaign, while RT highlighted explosive devices found on Election Day. RT reporters also amplified claims of “potential electoral fraud against Gustavo Petro” and reports that election observers had been blocked from entering Colombia. One RT writer pointed to Colombia’s alleged election observation problems and sarcastically posted, “Colombia, a trusted extra-NATO democracy.” Previously, Moscow strenuously denied accusations that it had interfered in the Colombia’s internal affairs.
In U.S. news, Russian state media covered the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed at least 19 children and two adults. Kremlin-backed outlets provided details on the police response, measures taken by survivors, and reactions from U.S. citizens, activists, and lawmakers. While most of the coverage was factual, some RT reporters used the shooting to discredit U.S. democracy. George Galloway, who hosts a Sputnik show, posted that “America is an orgy of violence… at home and abroad.” No diplomatic accounts tweeted about “Texas” last week.
Xinjiang was once more at the center of Chinese diplomats and state media’s global messaging last week due to the release of the Xinjiang Police Files, a new trove of leaked Chinese documents detailing the ongoing repression of Uyghurs, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to several parts of China, including Xinjiang. As a result, “Xinjiang” was the most used key phrase and the second most used hashtag in tweets from Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts last week. The focus was more on the UN commissioner’s visit than the report, as evidenced by “High Commissioner” being the second most used key phrase and “Human Rights Michelle Bachelet” being eighth. “#HumanRights” was also the seventh most used hashtag, with most related content covering Bachelet’s visit. Much of Chinese diplomats’ Xinjiang-related content portrayed an idyllic region, in contrast to supposed Western media “lies” about the region. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson Zhao Lijian highlighted “beautiful scenery,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying shared a video of farmers working with “modern farm equipment” who had “never seen ‘forced labor,’” and the Consul General in Belfast posted a video of a dancing 11-year-old girl in traditional attire. Beijing’s satisfaction with High Commissioner Bachelet was evidenced by the MFA and former ambassador to the United Kingdom’s full-throated defense of her visit. Other Chinese diplomats, however, like the ambassador to Austria and the current ambassador to the United Kingdom, as well as state media outlets including the Global Times and China Daily, chose instead to attack the leaked documents and the researcher behind their release, Adrian Zenz.
President Joe Biden’s statement last Monday that the United States would respond militarily if China attacked Taiwan prompted a barrage of angry reactions from Chinese diplomats and state media. MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned that China keeps “fine wine for friends and shotguns for jackals.” Many Chinese diplomats repeated this wording, including the deputy consul general in Auckland, the hollowed out Chinese Embassy—officially “Office of the Chargé d’Affaires”—in Lithuania, the consul general in Melbourne, and the Chinese Embassy in Russia. Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying and the Chinese ambassador to the United States were among the many diplomats to insist on the fundamental nature of the one-China principle. Chinese diplomats also played the nationalist card, with Hua portraying China as “a civilizational state with [a] 5,000-year history” and the MFA urging the United States “not to stand in opposition to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.” State media were similarly patriotic; the Global Times presented Chinese drills near Taiwan as “necessary actions,” and Xinhua called Taiwan independence a “doomed failure.”
In tweets mentioning the United States last week, “#gunviolence” was the most used hashtag, “#Texas” was third, “#HumanRights” was fourth, and “#covid19” was eighth. As could be expected from this list, the overall tone of U.S.-related content was overwhelmingly negative as diplomats presented an apocalyptic vision of life in the United States. A recurring theme was gun violence in the United States, with Hua Chunying accusing the U.S. government of failing to protect its people, the consul general in Belfast comparing the U.S. failure to rein in gun violence with its botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the head of China Daily in Europe going after Biden over weapons exports. The Global Times derided U.S. complacency to confront the gun lobby, while CGTN-affiliate Frontline relayed U.S. officials’ despondency in the face of last week’s shooting. Chinese state media also poked fun at the United States’ baby formula-related issues and accused U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul of being racist for confusing a Vietnamese delegation in Davos with a Chinese one. The Chinese MFA and the cultural counselor in the Embassy in Pakistan also continued to accuse the United States of taking advantage of Europe and Ukraine. Spokesperson Zhao relayed Congressman Chip Roy’s anger at the $40 billion aid package for Ukraine at a time when the United States is struggling with other crises.
Though “Shanghai” was displaced from the top of the key phrase and hashtags rankings by Xinjiang-related content, “#covid19” remained the most frequent hashtag—in part due to the many tweets attacking the U.S. handling of the pandemic. Shanghai was still the third most frequent key phrase and fourth most used hashtag in tweets from Chinese accounts last week. The Shanghai-related coverage was even more upbeat than usual with CGTN, the Global Times and People Daily among the many voices celebrating the city’s imminent grand reopening for business.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.