Twitter users are exposing pro-Russian sentiment in China, and Beijing isn’t happy

China and the dilemma over the war in Ukraine 7:42 Hong Kong (CNN) — Anonymous Twitter users are exposing extreme nationalism and pro-Russian sentiment circulating online in China, and Beijing isn’t amused . Dozens of messages captured from China’s most popular social media platforms have been translated and shared on Twitter in recent weeks, giving Western audiences a rare glimpse into the Chinese internet. These messages include a prominent military blog falsely claiming that the Russian attack on a train station in Kramatorsk was actually carried out by Ukraine; a well-known media commentator who dismisses the atrocities in Bucha; and a vlogger with hundreds of thousands of followers who uses a misogynistic term to refer to Ukraine. The posts come courtesy of anonymous Twitter users who say they aim to expose Western audiences to the true extent of pro-Russian or nationalist content on China’s heavily censored platforms. They often appear under the hashtag “The Great Translation Movement,” or are shared by an account of the same name run by an anonymous, decentralized team that crowdsources the collection and translation of popular messages about Ukraine and other current affairs, according to an administrator interviewed. by CNN. Many, though not all, of them appear to have been shared or liked in China, selection criteria cited by the administrator. Estimated 22,000 deaths in Mariupol due to Russian incursion 0:53Since the account launched in early March, it has already made many friends and enemies, attracting 116,000 followers (and counting) and a lot of criticism from the media state of China. The movement was formed in response to China’s alleged hypocrisy in presenting itself as neutral in relation to Ukraine, even as its state and social media circulated pro-Russian narratives, the administrator told CNN. “We want the outside world to at least know what’s going on inside, because we don’t think there can be any change from inside,” said the administrator, who requested anonymity for security reasons. In bad faith? China’s state media have lashed out at what they decry as “selective content”. The overseas arm of the People’s Daily — the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party — claimed that the translators behind the movement are guilty of attributing “extreme comments” by some netizens to the entire “country.” The nationalist newspaper Global Times accused the group of being “bad faith Chinese-speaking actors” and one of its opinion writers claimed that the group included “hostile foreign forces” perpetuating a “psychological war against China”. Outside of China, media experts caution that the posts do not portray a global view of public opinion in China and appear to be selected, at least in part, for their shock value, but could be useful in bringing to light these elements of the Chinese media sphere. Critics also say the group’s tweets show evidence of its own bias, such as posts using a term comparing China to Nazi Germany. Experts say posts gaining traction on Chinese social media should be viewed in light of its highly censored environment, in which nationalist voices thrive and liberal ones have largely been withdrawn or censored. But the administrator who spoke with CNN said the goal was to highlight the visibility of those posts, some of them coming from popular influencers, comments that receive thousands of likes or from prominent commenters, and even government-backed media outlets. . “Our goal is to raise awareness of the state of public opinion in China, whether it is purely the result of spontaneous interactions (or) the result of government censorship,” the administrator said. “We want to counter the Chinese state-affiliated media’s effort by showing the West some content they don’t want to show,” he added. Double message The resistance against the group by the Chinese state media highlights sensitivities around how China wants to present itself on the world stage, especially at a time when it has been attempting to walk a diplomatic tightrope between Russia and the West over Ukraine. China has often tried to present two different narratives: one for domestic audiences and one for foreigners. This is possible thanks to the language barrier and an online ecosystem that prohibits applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Great Movement of Translation breaks both barriers. “Even before the age of social media, the way China speaks internally through its state media is something that doesn’t appreciate being analyzed and translated for the world,” said David Bandurski, director of the Project for China Media, a research program in association with the Center for Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Hong Kong. And when it comes to Ukraine, China has tried to present itself, at least to foreign audiences, as nonaligned and committed to peace. But the media coverage in his country tells a different story, Bandurski said. Ukraine’s War Stockpile, Explained By Military Analyst 2:30″If you look at the (state) media coverage, it’s really hard to talk about neutrality… All they’ve said is amplify disinformation and align with Russia in terms of narratives”. Although the tone of the state-backed media is clear, experts say it is difficult to gauge public opinion in China just by looking at social media, even when it comes to popular influencers or viral posts. Like anywhere in the world, opinions on social media can be extreme. In China, strong manipulation and censorship often amplify some voices. The authorities are certainly interested in promoting their preferred narrative online, and they have the technical and political means to “guide public opinion” without qualms,” said Florian Schneider, director of the Leiden Asian Center in the Netherlands. “Neither should we underestimating the power of social media algorithms: as pro-Russian statements become mainstream, they get more and more likes and shares, which makes them more visible,” he said. China’s Suppressed Voices, Echo Chambers The situation is complicated: Beijing also has reason to be wary of ultra-nationalist voices, which the platforms sometimes censor, and while nationalist rhetoric has become more dominant online in recent years, the strongest voices may not be in the majority. He said an analogy would be to look at ultra-conservative voices in the US media environment, and assume that’s representative of the US perspective. nidense. “The danger is this kind of echo chamber of content, which we might assume to be representative of China and its perspective, and it’s actually much more complicated than that,” he said. Maria Repnikova, director of the Center for Global Information Studies at Georgia State University, said that when it comes to Ukraine there have been “alternative voices talking about the war…but they are not as dominant or as loud or as visible.” “. Their posts may be censored or difficult to detect, as social media users may express their dissenting opinions through codes and allusions. She also wonders if things would be different if images of bombed-out cities in Ukraine or Bucha’s atrocities weren’t restricted in China. China: what consequences would it face if it supports Russia in the war? 1:10″If people could see all these images and scenes, would the story be different? Would different voices be heard?” The Grand Translation Movement administrator said he hoped the movement could help pressure Beijing to tone down the rhetoric on these platforms so that there would be room for more voices. “In the current mainstream Chinese discourse, there is very limited space for rational-minded people to speak,” the administrator said. “Even if you speak up and if you don’t get deleted, you’re going to be spammed… and people are going to say you’re a spy… it destroys the dignity of the people themselves.” CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this article.

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