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 17,178 times from November 9 to November 15, generating 156,951 retweets and 452,659 likes.
Missile Strike in Poland
The explosion of an air-defense missile in Poland on Tuesday sparked a barrage of Kremlin-linked posts that denied Russia’s involvement, said Ukraine had launched a false flag operation or was incompetent, and warned about World War Three. Diplomatic accounts argued that “no attacks by Russian weapons” were launched near the Ukrainian-Polish border. Those accounts amplified posts that claimed Ukraine had developed and launched the missile. After Poland said that the missile was “Russian-made,” dozens of Russian diplomats retweeted a post that accused Polish media and officials of staging a “deliberate provocation,” making that the fifth most used term by diplomats on Tuesday. The following day, NATO said there was no evidence that Russia had intentionally attacked Poland. Kremlin-backed accounts used those findings to claim that Ukraine was too incompetent to stage a false flag operation. One account bashed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—who said that Russian missiles hit Poland—as “reckless,” “immature,” and a “threat to global security.” Russian accounts also criticized Western media for speculating that Moscow was behind the missiles. While Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov gave an approving nod to the United States’ “restrained” response to the incident, other Russian messengers suggested that the US “deep state and Ukraine” were feeding disinformation to media outlets and warned about the incident triggering a global war. State media also said the blast was designed to maintain global support for Kyiv, push forward US funding for Ukraine, or prompt the deployment of NATO peacekeepers to Ukraine.
Kremlin-linked media struggled to explain Russia’s military withdrawal from Kherson city—the only regional capital that it had seized since the war began. Multiple sites published pieces that laid out possible rationales for the retreat. The German-language outlet RT Deutsch said the withdrawal either meant that Kyiv was succeeding, Moscow was setting a trap, or the Kremlin was considering a ceasefire. Various posts said the “wise and strategic” withdrawal was a “tactical necessity” and a way to save lives. One Sputnik tweet assured readers that the “Kremlin does not consider decision to leave #Kherson humiliating.” Other articles argued that while Russia’s retreat from Kherson marked a political victory for Kyiv, the move would ultimately be too costly for the Ukrainian military and lead to its defeat. Russian state-backed media also framed Ukraine as a brutal occupier, with various outlets highlighting images of people who collaborated with Russian forces being tied to poles. One embassy account said that Ukrainian forces in Kherson were committing “extrajudicial medieval punishments.” RT and others also spread claims that Ukrainians in Kherson had given Nazi salutes.
Kremlin-backed accounts promoted several election-related conspiracies in the aftermath of the US midterms. Last week, monitored Russian accounts posted nearly 100 tweets mentioning the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Those posts amplified a conspiracy that asserts that Ukraine used US aid to invest in FTX and that FTX then laundered that investment into campaigns for Democratic candidates. Sputnik host George Galloway speculated that the so-called scandal would bring down both US President Joe Biden and Zelensky. Galloway retweeted posts asking if Biden would be returning the money to FTX clients and calling for an “immediate moratorium” on US aid to Ukraine. State media accounts also suggested that Democrats manipulated the results of the midterm elections. One account said that “no one knows who won” and called the United States a “banana republic.” Several outlets highlighted deceased candidates being elected to congress.
Monitored Russian accounts used the G20 meeting in Bali to attack Western media, repeat familiar claims about the war in Ukraine, and put a positive spin on Russia’s ties with other countries. Diplomatic and state media accounts bashed an AP report about Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visiting a hospital in Bali. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called it “fake news,” the UK embassy said it was “propaganda,” and RT sent a correspondent to the AP booth at the G20 summit to learn more about the outlet’s sources. State media also circulated Lavrov’s statements at the meeting, including his accusation that the United States was responsible for the war in Ukraine and that Washington was funding biolabs around the world. Lavrov also criticized Zelensky’s speech to the G20, calling it “warlike, Russophobic, and aggressive.” State-backed accounts also stressed that Russian ties with developing states, like India and China, were continuing to improve despite Western attempts to isolate Moscow. They also showcased Lavrov meeting with other high-profile officials, including the Chinese foreign minister and the UN secretary general.
Monitored Chinese accounts tweeted 18,662 times from November 9 to November 15, generating 91,257 retweets and 325,876 likes.
The November 14 meeting between US and Chinese leaders on the margins of the G20 Summit in Bali was actively covered by Chinese diplomats and state media over the studied period. Mentions of the United States were up by more than 50 percent compared to the previous seven-day period. All the top key phrases and all but two of the top hashtags associated with the United States were linked to the Biden-Xi meeting.
Prior to last weekend, Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 were putting out the usual anti-US content, including highlighting US military interventions, accusing Washington of saber-rattling in the Taiwan Strait, and commenting sarcastically about Biden’s reluctance to follow “White House talking points” on Taiwan.
During and after the meeting between Xi and Biden, however, Chinese diplomats and state media pivoted to slightly more positive US-related coverage. Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying reminisced about the two leaders’ previous friendly interactions and hailed “a handshake across the Pacific.” The Chinese ambassador to the United States described the meeting as “candid and in-depth” and even the usually combative consul in Osaka portrayed the meeting in a positive light.
At the same time, as was apparent from the Chinese readout of the meeting, Chinese messaging remained firm and uncompromising on several points. This was especially true on the issue of Taiwan, where Wang Yi repeated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ earlier message that the United States should “stop hollowing out” the one-China principle. In addition, Xi, echoed in the Global Times, also defended China’s system of government as free and democratic. Hua Chunying noted that both counties should not seek to “subvert the other’s system” before adding that the United States’ actions did not match its words.
Looking beyond the West
While the Xi-Biden meeting was by far the most covered part of the G20 gathering, Chinese diplomats and state media also continued to promote China as the partner of choice for the Global South. on November 15, Xi notably met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a relationship Hua described as “comrades plus brothers.” Xi also advocated for the African Union to join the G20.
The most engaged with tweet from monitored Chinese accounts last week came from a CGTN anchor, who supported the Nigerian president’s pointed comments against Western countries’ hypocrisy on climate change. Another CGTN personality amplified a Zambian politician’s attacks on the West’s anti-China lobbying in Africa. Finally, the consul in Belfast trumpeted China’s contribution to world economic growth compared to G7 countries.
In the same vein, the day before the Xi-Biden meeting, a Chinese diplomat in Pakistan and a Beijing-based MFA official shared a map of the world showing China supplanting the United States over the past 20 years as the primary trading partner for most countries. Those tweets have since been deleted.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.