Monitored Russian accounts tweeted 17,045 times from November 2 to November 8, earning 185,885 retweets and 539,333 likes.
Kremlin-linked Twitter accounts did not conduct a large-scale messaging push around the US midterm elections. Even on the day of voting, none of the ten most used key phrases or hashtags by Russian propagandists were related to the midterms. Russia’s limited messaging attacked Democrats and sought to undermine confidence in the integrity of the election. Ahead of election day, Sputnik ran a piece that argued Republicans would win “if elections are administered fairly.” Sputnik host George Galloway predicted that “Democrats face incineration.” Others said that President Joe Biden would be impeached after the elections and warned that “political violence is growing rapidly in the United States.” State media tried to brush off a Russian oligarch’s admission that Moscow was interfering in the election, claiming that the “White House did not understand” the joke. On the day of the election, RT circulated a statement by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the likelihood of votes being manipulated. The outlet also warned that Wisconsin would “count potentially fake ballots.” Several state media accounts suggested that election observers for the Department of Justice were part of a Democratic Party plot to frame Republicans for violating voting laws. After issues with voting equipment in Arizona, NewsFront published a piece arguing that “Americans’ trust in their electoral institutions has been undermined again.” State media also amplified former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated statements about election violations. Meanwhile, Kremlin-linked outlets played up some Republican’s opposition to aid for Ukraine. And one RIA Novosti piece claimed that Russia would “emerge victorious from the American elections” because the midterms would mark another step in the “disintegration of the United States” and weaken US power on the world stage.
Russian propaganda about Ukraine touched on the prospect of peace talks, Western support for Ukraine, Nazism, and nuclear weapons. Propagandists seized on a Washington Post article that said the United States had asked Ukraine to show openness to peace talks so that Kyiv could maintain support from countries that are weary about the war dragging on. One embassy claimed the article proved that the “US has no desire for peace.” State media speculated about “Ukraine fatigue,” with Sputnik repeating claims that Washington was “getting tired of Zelensky” and RIA Novosti amplifying anonymous online commentators who predicted “an imminent” leadership change in Ukraine. Kremlin-linked accounts also showcased an Italian rally against aid for Ukraine. NewsFront pushed disinformation about NATO countries supplying Ukraine with AIDS-infected blood. After 52 countries rejected a UN resolution on combating Nazism because the term had been co-opted and misused throughout the war in Ukraine, a state-linked media account warned about “a major push to normalize Nazis,” which is “not coming from Kyrie & Kanye” but the US government. Finally, state media speculated about a US nuclear attack on Russia. SouthFront warned that a “US ‘nuclear apocalypse’ submarine” was operating near Europe.
The four most retweeted posts by monitored Russian accounts were about Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who survived a shooting at a political rally last week. Sputnik host George Galloway said that the “ultimate responsibility for the attempted murder of Imran Khan lies with Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.” RT host Afshin Rattansi likewise blamed the United States. RT Arabic shared Khan’s claim that Pakistani government officials attempted to assassinate him. State media accounts went on to showcase rallies in support of Khan across Pakistan.
“Grain deal” was one of the most used key phrases by Kremlin-linked accounts after Russia rejoined a UN-brokered agreement to safely ship grain through the Black Sea. The most retweeted posts featured quotes from President Vladimir Putin, who said that if Russia decided to withdraw from the deal again, it would supply the grain to the poorest countries free of charge. State media touted the move to rejoin the deal as a “diplomatic success” and highlighted ships carrying grain.
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 18,049 times from November 2 to November 8, earning 94,139 retweets and 355,663 likes.
In Chinese diplomats and state media’s tweets last week mentioning the United States, the most frequent key phrase was “midterm elections” and the most frequent hashtag was “Midterms2022.”
The bulk of the coverage was negative. In particular, many Chinese accounts focused on the amount of spending associated with this year’s campaign cycle, claiming that US elections were essentially for sale. CGTN America, China Daily, and CGTN-affiliate Frontline all amplified findings from a US non-governmental organization estimating that the total cost of the 2022 midterm elections would top all previous records. A Pakistan-based diplomat, CGTN, and CGTN affiliates T-House and Frontline all shared the same cartoon showing a “gold road” covered in dollar bills leading to the Capitol. CGTN also ran a video segment explaining “how U.S. politicians use the stock market as an ATM.”
An isolated but significant data point was a Global Times cartoon warning voters, especially minorities, that their vote wouldn’t matter. This somewhat contradicted CGTN’s factual reporting on Black activists canvassing to encourage voter turnout.
Finally, several accounts used the elections to portray the United States as an irreversibly declining power. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) official amplified Richard Haass’ assessment that the biggest risk to the country was not Russia or China, but itself. Former editor-in-chief of the Global Times Hu Xijin relayed a Trump statement about the United States being at risk of disappearing in the next two years.
While much of Chinese accounts’ US-related content focused on the midterms, a large part of the highest-engagement tweets from those accounts was related to US foreign policy. The MFA’s official account and several state media figures likes CGTN’s Shen Shiwei attacked the ongoing US embargo on Cuba, highlighting a decisive recent UN General Assembly vote opposing the embargo. Another CGTN personality, Li Jingjing, implied that the United States may interfere in Brazil’s affairs following last week’s victory of left-wing politician Lula da Silva.
Regarding Eastern hemisphere relations, the consul general in Belfast accused the United States of seeking to destabilize East Asia by including Japan in AUKUS. Similarly, the MFA on Monday denounced Japan’s integration into NATO’s cyber defense center.
Following Xi Jinping’s successful renewal for a third mandate at the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress last month, several foreign leaders traveled to Beijing last week. As a result of those visits, Germany, Pakistan, and Tanzania were the three most mentioned countries, after China and the United States, in tweets from Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit drew the most attention from Chinese diplomats and state media on Twitter. The main narratives around the trip fell in two broad categories. One strand of Chinese discourse focused on the positive dimension of the bilateral relationship. Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying wrote a thread about the two countries’ “five-decade journey,” the ambassador to Malta quoted former German leader Helmut Schmidt, and China Daily highlighted “the economic bonds between China and Germany.” The other strand was aimed at the US response to the visit and sought to drive a wedge between Washington and Berlin. The MFA called out “US hegemonism & coercive diplomacy” over the US reaction to the sale of a portion of the port of Hamburg to a Chinese state-owned company, the consul in Barcelona published an op-ed saying that European and US interests are divergent, and the head of China Daily in Europe quipped that the “US is coercing Europe bigly.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Beijing also drew significant attention from Chinese Twitter accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0. Coverage of the Pakistani leader was universally positive. Hua Chunying lauded the two countries’ “iron-clad friendship,” an MFA official working on Asia spoke of an “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership,” and CGTN’s Shen Shiwei drew attention to growing alignment between both countries’ financial systems. In addition, MFA spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who was formerly posted in Pakistan, gave long and enthusiastic comments on the prime minister’s visit in the MFA’s Wednesday and Thursday press conferences.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan was the third leader to travel to Beijing last week. The main takeaway from the trip, and the second most frequent key phrase in Chinese tweets about the country, was “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.” As the Chinese ambassador to Tanzania, Xinhua, and others announced, the bilateral relationship between both countries was elevated as a result of the visit. Finally Hua Chunying and the consul in Belfast both highlighted that the Tanzanian president was the first African leader to visit Beijing after the 20th National Congress, with Hua adding that “these ‘1st’s’ carry weight.”
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.