All eyes are on Ukraine and how Russia is continuing its onslaught. The giant behind Russia gets a little out of sight. But China is lying in wait and is now turning on its propaganda machine. Caution is advised.
With regard to the Ukraine war, the Chinese leadership has so far pursued a policy of unequally distributed both-and. China has not condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, although it has always emphasized Ukraine’s territorial integrity. China criticizes Ukraine’s supporters for the sanctions because they are the real damage to the international (economic) order, but is holding back on helping Russia.
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President Putin must have a high degree of trust in President Xi, because there is no other way of explaining how the bulk of Russia’s armed forces are locked in a war that does not threaten Russia’s security, while in China, on the other hand, a discussion has started calling the “Unequal Treaties” ( 1842-1915), with which China also had to cede territories to Russia.
Nevertheless, Russia does not fear China, but considers the European Union, as Foreign Minister Lavrov said, to be an “aggressive and militant actor.” And this is where the two countries are getting closer.
According to the Russian interpretation, the EU supports the Nazi regime in Kyiv, as does NATO. The term Nazi and fascist in Russia was primarily aimed at exploiting the memory of Nazi Germany and the Second World War for propaganda purposes in support of the war against Ukraine.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäger has held the Chair for International Politics and Foreign Policy at the University of Cologne since 1999. His research focuses on international relations and American and German foreign policy.
At that time, a large generation defeated the German Nazis, now the victory over the Ukrainian Nazis is imminent. This is how President Putin gets involved again and again. The term has undergone a change in recent weeks, because now everything anti-Russian seems to be considered Nazi attitude. And what is anti-Russian is defined by the Russian President as he pleases.
In China, this motif has not been emphasized very prominently so far. Rather, the expansion of NATO, as proof of imperialist policy by the USA, was cited as the reason for the war. Russia defends itself against it.
According to the Chinese view, the US was trying to prevent the emerging powers China and Russia, which had a fairer and more effective form of democracy than the West, from developing. And thus to shape the order of the world better than the USA up to now. Because the US is spoiling international relations with its insatiable quest for power, which will stop at nothing, say Beijing.
China is looking less to Europe, where Russia is defending itself against NATO expansion, and more to the Pacific region, into which NATO is now striving. The West’s cooperation with Japan, South Korea, Australia and India is directed against China’s rise. Any support for Taiwan’s independence disregards China’s history and rank. Against this background, China’s narrative about the Ukraine war now seems to be intensifying.
The Chinese newspaper Global Times, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, has now written about the Nazis in Europe and the US. The title carries the central message: “Neo-Nazim” is poisoning Ukraine and Europe with the connivance of the USA and the West.
Accordingly, neo-Nazism “under the protection of the so-called freedom, democracy and human rights of the West” spread throughout Eastern Europe, vigorously promoted by the USA. The new Nazism is defined by the pursuit of white supremacy, racism and violence. It is difficult, such an alleged proof, to find pictures of Ukrainian soldiers without Nazi symbols. In Ukraine, “attacks on gays, Jews, older ethnic Russians and other “unclean” citizens are widespread.” This negative development in Eastern Europe is due to the fact that Western Europe is absorbing the economic development potential of these states through labor migration of well-educated citizens and these States therefore fell short of their potential. So they turned against globalization.
It is astonishing that this May 17 text still talks about how Nord Stream 2 bypasses Ukraine and therefore also undermines its economic development. Perhaps the text is older and the editors forgot to update it. That would speak for a planned approach.
According to the authors of the “Global Times”, the USA is also “a country with deep neo-Nazi soil”. Racism, the military-industrial complex and the search for an extreme leader in the US will “inevitably produce a future political leader. Zhang Yifei of the University of Hong Kong is then quoted as saying: “Perhaps the most pessimistic ending is that the USA will completely transform from the America of Tocqueville into the Germany of Mein Kampf.”
This is a notable extension of previous Russian propaganda basing the attack on Ukraine on liberating the people from Nazism. From the start, this was nothing but obvious nonsense, but it was steadily made worse. This was intended to dehumanize the people of Ukraine. In this propaganda they are not equal human beings, but deserve to be exterminated because Nazis didn’t deserve anything else.
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A collective enemy is created that is looked down on from the standpoint of moral superiority. The stereotyping of opponents promotes the formation of an enemy group that is responsible for its own fate, the annihilation.
The fact that this propaganda is adopted in China and immediately spread to all of Europe and the USA is an amazing process. This is all the more true in times when part of the population is less concerned with the facts than with the spreading of emotions, and the importance of the struggle for public opinion has therefore increased.
Also in Germany: 20 percent believe in conspiracy myths related to the Ukraine war. At first glance, authoritarian states seem to have an advantage here. Internally, they can secure the respective “truth” because there is no alternative point of view. Externally, they can proceed with strategic communication and find multipliers for their propaganda in open, democratic societies.
Democracies can counter this with frank, diverse and critical discourses. To do this, politics must be explained: its context, its goals and the ways of realizing them. The fact that this has not been done in Germany for seventeen years may have suited the people at the top of the government. However, democratic resilience in Germany has been damaged in the process.
Propaganda from Russia and China will intensify exposing this omission.