The European Union’s foreign and diplomatic wing said there’s evidence of a “coordinated push” by official Chinese sources to deflect blame for the coronavirus pandemic and promote its response to the virus.
Official Chinese sources have been “publicizing announcements and deliveries of bilateral assistance, with polls in certain countries showing China being perceived as more helpful in fighting the pandemic than the EU,” the European External Action Service said in the summary of a special report on Friday about global disinformation related to coronavirus.
“We see continued and coordinated push by some actors, including Chinese sources, to deflect any blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and highlighting bilateral assistance,” the EEAS said. “Many reports confirm a high level of coordination between different parts of the Chinese system in messaging and amplification of messages across different languages and communication channels, including the use of overt and covert tactics.”
The summary cited examples of “covert Chinese operations on social media” including the purchase of ads as part of a global propaganda campaign to depict China as a leader in fighting the outbreak.
The New York Times said on Friday that Chinese officials contacted EU representatives to stop the report from being published. An earlier version of the report seen by the paper had language different for China than what was in the summary released on Friday, it said. It cited EU diplomat Lutz Gullner as writing in an email that China had threatened “reactions” if the report came out.
China’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the EEAS report, and on the New York Times article that Chinese officials tried to stop its publication.
Politicians in Berlin, Paris, London and Brussels have expressed concern over Beijing’s narrative on COVID-19. Diplomats talk of mounting anger over China’s behavior during the coronavirus pandemic including claims of price gouging by Chinese suppliers of medical equipment and a blindness to how its actions are perceived.
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