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Look Who’s Talking: Chinese and Russian Propaganda and Disinformation in Europe

China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe (CHOICE) hosted a panel discussion entitled Look Who’s Talking: Chinese and Russian Propaganda and Disinformation in Europe on 22 September in Prague. 

The panel discussion was part of the CIC2022 ‘Europe Tackles Information Chaos’ international conference organized by the Central European Digital Media Observatory (CEDMO) under the auspices of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 

The panel focused on identifying the best approaches and specific policy tools on tackling the confluence of the two authoritarian powers, China and Russia, in the information space. While the two countries have their own separate approaches to propaganda and disinformation and their strategies and tactics differ, they have also learned from each other and echoed each other‘s narratives targeting Western countries. This trend has been highlighted by the Chinese reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was followed by China’s amplification of the Russian narratives on the war.

In the first session, chaired by Gianni Riotta, Director of the Italian Digital Media Observatory, the speakers zoomed in on the Chinese propaganda and disinformation in Europe. Katja Drinhausen, head of Program at MERICS, Reinhard Butikofer, Chair of Delegation for Relations with the People’s Republic of China and Ivana Karásková, the founder and leader of CHOICE, first discussed how China uses its media and foreign information outlets to produce and spread propaganda and disinformation. They pointed out that all levels of administration in China are part of the effort as local officials are under pressure to perform and invest in campaigns in the international media. The panelists also talked about the reception and perception of Chinese propaganda in Europe. China’s main achievement is that it managed to persuade the European public that the course China pursues is one of unmatched and inevitable success, put into contrast with the West’s relative decline. The experts agreed that China’s narratives are becoming more and more sophisticated and less easy to attribute. 

The second session of the panel, chaired by MapInfluenCE analyst Pavel Havlíček, focused on Sino-Russian confluence in information space. The esteemed speakers Grzegorz Rzeczkowski, investigative reporter at Newsweek Polska and lecturer at Collegium Civitas, Mareike Ohlberg, Senior Fellow at German Marshall Fund of the United States and Tauno Tohk, China Lead at Strategic Communications and Information Analysis Division of the European External Action Service, talked about Russia’s intensive efforts to divide societies in Central and Eastern Europe as well as China’s broad narrative and information support to Russia on the war on Ukraine. Finally, the panelists discussed about specific policy tools that the EU and the member states could adopt to counter foreign interference and information manipulation. 

About the conference

The two-day CIC2022: ‘Europe Tackles Information Chaos’ conference gathered leading experts and key stakeholders – including NGOs, academics, think tanks, practitioners, and legislative and technology actors focused on fighting information disorder in Europe to discuss about information, tech, artificial intelligence (AI) and the necessity of media literacy.

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CHOICE is a multinational consortium of experts providing informed analysis on the rising influence of the People’s Republic of China within the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).