- State media outlets were quick to report on criticism posted by “Wilson Edwards” in a Facebook post.
- Experts say the marketing campaign succeeded in convincing the Chinese populace to be wary of international condemnation.
- Officials in China have recently flooded Twitter with harsh remarks aimed at a domestic audience, which is against the law in the country.
A disinformation campaign claiming that the Covid-19 virus originated from an American military base in Maryland has gained popularity in China ahead of releasing a US intelligence report on the virus origins, reports BBC.
Covid-19 virus origin investigation
Wuhan Lab Leak theory
In May, President Joe Biden of the United States ordered a 90-day investigation into whether the Covid-19 virus developed through a lab mishap or from human interaction with an infected animal. Most scientists had dismissed the “Wuhan lab leak” theory as a fringe conspiracy theory until then.
Claim from China
On the other hand, China has gone on the offensive; Covid-19 was allegedly manufactured in the United States, according to Chinese sources. Experts claim the propaganda tactics have succeeded in persuading the domestic Chinese audience to be skeptical of foreign condemnation of the country’s participation in the Covid-19 outbreak.
Although most Americans are unfamiliar with Fort Detrick, it is quickly becoming a household name in China. It now houses biomedical facilities researching viruses such as Ebola and smallpox and was the heart of the US biological weapons program.
In China, its convoluted past has aroused discussion. Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesman, recently supported a rap song by the Chinese nationalist group that suggests the lab is hatching sinister conspiracies.
“We see a more sustained campaign involving more numerous and geographically spread accounts to promote the narrative,” about Fort Detrick, says Ira Hubert, a senior investigative analyst at social analytics firm Graphika.
A Chinese tabloid suggests the virus’s origins to a US coronavirus expert and researchers at Fort Detrick. The newspaper also launched an online petition calling for a World Health Organisation (WHO) investigation. It reportedly gathered more than 25 million “signatures.”
Propaganda from Switzerland to Fiji
Experts say Beijing is seeking to bring non-Chinese audiences into the dispute about Covid-19 origins. Chinese state media outlets relentlessly reported on criticism written in a Facebook post by “Wilson Edwards.”
“Mr. Edwards” argued that Washington was “so obsessed with attacking China on the origin-tracing issue that it is reluctant to open its eyes to the data and findings.”
Experts believe “Wilson Edwards” likely does not exist but is instead a fictitious propaganda profile.
On their Facebook pages, “Tyla” and “Schmidt” similarly shared a long and identical list of pro-China news pieces praising Beijing’s handling of the pandemic. There is no convincing proof that these accounts are managed by who, but regularly quote sentences that Chinese government officials or prominent Chinese state media outlets use.
Graphique, the social research company, has found a network of fake and covert pro-China accounts primary amplifiers in the Fort Detrick idea on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
China’s newest international influence effort on Covid-19 may not have won the country many new friends, but observers think it has persuaded Beijing’s local audience. More Chinese officials have recently flooded Twitter, which is forbidden in the country, with aggressive statements aimed at a domestic audience.
Prof. Repnikova claims that China has been blurring the lines between domestic and external propaganda for years. This technique is not without risk since less effective external messaging could damage China’s overseas ties.
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