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China censors Ukraine invasion coverage with eyes on Russian support for possible final action on Taiwan

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(, Feb24’22) – China’s official news media have posted online instructions to social platforms about how to approach coverage on Ukraine, on which Russia has just launched an invasion after recognizing its two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as separate countries, including a note on Beijing’s need for Russian “support” with Taiwan.

Posted seemingly accidentally, the guidelines are said to provide instructions on what should and should not be published, reported and other news outlets Feb 23.

Ming Jinwei, senior editor at Xinhua News Agency, was stated to have written in his WeChat blog about how his outlet needed to walk a tight line on its Ukraine coverage, noting that China “has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support while refraining from treading on the toes of the United States and European Union.” 

“In the future, China will also need Russia’s understanding and support when wrestling with America to solve the Taiwan issue once and for all,” his post was stated to read. Ming has said it “doesn’t hurt” to use moderately pro-Russia language.

Horizon News, a social media account belonging to CCP-owned Beijing News, was stated to have posted similar instructions, along with a note that no posts unfavorable to Russia or with pro-Western content should be published. The Horizon News post was later deleted, according to The Washington Post

“With immediate effect, regarding all Weibo posts about Ukraine: Horizon News to post first [on this topic], to be reposted by other major accounts,” Feb 23 quoted a directive from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s central propaganda department posted to Weibo as ordering.

“No pro-Western posts, no posts critical of Russia. All initial copy to be reviewed by us [the CCP propaganda department] prior to posting,” it was further quoted as saying.

The order, which was published by the China Digital Times, which curates and publishes similar directives under its “Ministry of Truth” column, was stated as saying all topics should be confined to stories already published by Xinhua, the People’s Daily and CCTV.

On Feb 22, US President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Russia, citing what he described as “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” following reports of Russian troops entering the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

China is expected to play a big role in mitigating any US sanctions placed on Russia. The day before Russia’s recognition of the breakaway Ukrainian regions, Moscow and Beijing agreed on a new deal that would see Russia supply 100 million tons of coal to its southern neighbor in a move that could help to mitigate any sanctions enacted by the West, the report noted.

China’s official position is to urge the parties for a diplomatic settlement and to “opposes all illegal unilateral sanctions,” as remarked by its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a daily press briefing reported by Xinhua Feb 23.

China blames the West, especially the US, for the unfolding tragedy. Hua has said the US has been sending weapons to Ukraine, “pushing up tensions, creating panic and even hyping up the possibility of war.” China has said nothing about Russia amassing troops for an invasion of Ukraine, or Moscow’s recognition of the two breakaway Ukrainian regions.

Hua has stressed China’s hopes that “relevant parties remain calm and rational, and commit themselves to peacefully resolving relevant issues through negotiation in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”


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