Coronavirus: China accused of running disinformation campaigns inside the European Union

ST Staff
Thursday, 11 June 2020

Russia and China were running "targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighbourhood, and globally," said the European Commission.

Brussels have accused China of spreading false information inside the European Union about the Coronavirus pandemic. Worried, the bloc is preparing to set up plans to fight this "huge wave" of disinformation about the virus.

Russia and China were running "targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighbourhood, and globally," said the European Commission. Although the charge against Russia has been made on many occasions, the EU executive has named China as a disinformation outlet for the first time.

French lawmakers were furious when a website of the Chinese Embassy reported that care staff had quit their jobs leaving residents to die, that too when the pandemic was at its peak in Europe in the mid of April. The unnamed Chinese diplomat also falsely claimed that 80 French legislators had racially attacked Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation.

Vĕra Jourová, a European commission vice-president, told reporters, "I believe if we have evidence we should not shy away from naming and shaming. What we also witnessed is a surge in narratives undermining our democracies and in effect our response to the crisis, for example, the claim there are secret US biological laboratories on former Soviet republics has been spread by both pro-Kremlin outlets, as well as Chinese officials and state media."

She added, "I strongly believe that a geopolitically strong EU can only materialise if we are assertive," about Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission's goal, to give the body more power on the world stage.

The more assertive position marks a shift, from a report in March that hardly described narrative of the Chinese media, with a focus on disinformation from supported sources in the Kremlin. It is after the legislators in the European Parliament accused the committee of dulling an earlier disinformation report under China's pressure - charges were strongly refuted by EU officials.

The EU Member States are engaged in dealing with China in many fronts like foreign policy, safety and economy. In its 2019 report, which many Member States regard as a milestone in how the EU handles an increasingly aggressive government in Beijing, the commission described China as a "systemic rival."

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