April 20, 2021

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China’s use of Twitter to promote Xinjiang’s policies last year hit a new high

Xinjiang Issue
The research found that on Facebook, accounts operated by Chinese state media are one of the most popular sources of posts related to Xinjiang issue.

The Chinese government’s campaign to promote Xinjiang’s ethnic minority policies on Twitter and Facebook last year hit a record high.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a new study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute showed that in 2020, China’s official media and foreign affairs department’s Twitter accounts will publish tweets on Xinjiang from an average of 280 per month in 2019. Increased to nearly 500 from left to right.

The research found that on Facebook, accounts operated by Chinese state media are one of the most popular sources of posts related to Xinjiang issues.

According to reports, in the past few years, Chinese officials have denied reports by overseas journalists, direct accounts of former detainees and their families, and government documents showing the detention and suppression of Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim minorities. These are all to discredit China.

The Chinese government claims that the vast network of detention camps in the region referred to by outsiders is actually a vocational training center, and Uighurs and other mainly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have free movement.

Last week, H&M, a subsidiary of Swedish fast-fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB, was bombarded by Chinese social media users and official media after it issued a statement last year expressing concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang. Later, Chinese officials also criticized other publications that had published similar. Declared multinational corporations.

In January last year, the Chinese state media “Global Times” shared a video on Facebook that received nearly 20,000 likes. This video tells about a man working in English and Chinese after graduating from a vocational training center in Xinjiang. . In the video, the man said that he is living happily now.

According to a new report from the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, the audience for such narratives is expanding on international social media sites and has received responses from Western voices. Part of the agency’s funding comes from the Australian and US governments.

This report found that since 2018, judging from the popularity of posts involving Xinjiang on Twitter, Chinese official media has been the most popular account. China’s major international news channel, China Global Television Network (CGTN), has more than 115 million fans on its Facebook page.

According to data from the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, CGTN has used its popularity to become the page with the most likes on Facebook posts involving Xinjiang for three consecutive years, with a total of about 5.8 million likes in 2020. The institute analyzed more than 270,000 public Facebook posts. In 2020, the six most popular Facebook pages on Xinjiang topics all belong to Chinese state media.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that Wallis, the co-author of the report, said that on the Xinjiang issue, one of the Chinese government’s strategies is to form a discourse environment that supports China’s policies. But he said another strategy is to use “much fierce language” and sanctions to respond to critical inspections of Xinjiang from outsiders, thereby discouraging others.

He also said that when Chinese officials responded to Xinjiang-related human rights issues, they also tried to create a sense of moral equality between China and the United States.

After allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang caused a wave of anger in China last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying posted two comparison photos on Twitter and tagged “Mississippi in 1908 and Xinjiang in 2015.” . One picture shows a smiling Uyghur man holding cotton, the other shows a black laborer standing next to a hunting dog, and one person appears to be a planter holding a shotgun.

Wallis said that the Chinese government’s fierce criticism and opposition may bring deterrence or pressure to funders of Xinjiang research projects, which may contradict Beijing’s claims.

“The Wall Street Journal” revealed that Twitter has funded research projects on the operation of network information by the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy in the past. A Twitter spokesperson said that the company investigated and suspended some accounts that were found to have false dynamics in the institute’s latest report.

Facebook is currently a sponsor of the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy. A Facebook spokesperson said that the company is monitoring reports on Xinjiang, learning information from them to determine corresponding countermeasures, and continuing to conduct due diligence on the issue.

The Chinese government previously accused the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy of “concocting and exaggerating anti-China topics” in order to serve the interests of government funders such as the United States. Researchers at the think tank refuted these criticisms and provided evidence, usually from Chinese officials, to support their claims.

As the Chinese government is stepping up efforts to reshape online public opinion involving Xinjiang, China’s policies in Xinjiang are facing increasing international pressure, including calls to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, as well as condemnation from the United States and other Western countries.

In response, the Chinese government identified and sanctioned researchers who issued critical reports on its Xinjiang policy.

In addition, the report also quoted Alberg, a senior researcher at the German Marshall Fund, a Berlin think tank, as saying that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of social media activities in Beijing because posts may be artificially heated through robot networks and other methods.

However, she added that Beijing’s increasing activities on overseas social media should not be underestimated, and such posts provide a forum for people who identify with China or oppose the United States.

The Grayzone, a media founded by an American journalist, published a long article in 2019 that questioned widespread speculation about Xinjiang internment camps. The Grayzone claims to be dedicated to journalistic investigations and analysis of politics and the country.

According to the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, from December 2019 to February 2021, The Grayzone was cited at least 252 times in English by Chinese state-owned news organizations.

The Australian Institute of Strategic Policy report stated that although “peripheral media organizations can provide valuable and different voices in public debate…but some marginal media organizations promote conspiracy theories that are consistent with their political views and are vulnerable to manipulation.” .

The Grayzone pointed out in an e-mailed statement that the Australian Strategic Policy Research Institute’s government funding sources include the Australian Department of Defense, and said the think tank “has the motivation to provoke conflict with China”.

Raipnikova, a professor at Georgia State University who studies China’s soft power, said this is an opportunity for China to take advantage of the suspicion or cynicism that the United States has received.

But Raipnikova said that the international images of China and the United States have been damaged during the epidemic. She said this is not a zero-sum game where someone wins.

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