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On the sidelines of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Moscow in October 2020, the foreign ministers of China and Russia called for bilateral media cooperation to be strengthened (https://english.cctv.com/2020/09/17/ARTIzqByG1VLOF7F1Np2EhXA200917.shtml). Shortly thereafter, media representatives from both countries praised "to report on important international events comprehensively, impartially and objectively and to defend themselves decisively against false information aimed at stigmatizing other countries" - especially in times of Covid-19.
This is just one example of the expansion of cooperation between the two countries in the media sector, which has been driven forward for years. China and Russia have held an annual media forum since 2015, and in 2018 the state or semi-state media in both countries agreed to increasingly publish materials that have the approval of the government of the partner country (https://ria.ru/20180911/1528288991.html). As part of the expanding strategic partnership between China and Russia, media from both countries have signed numerous cooperation agreements in recent years: Chinese media such as People's Daily, Xinhua, Global Times and China Media Corporation have signed up with RT, Russia Channel One, TASS and Sputnik Russian side teamed up.
Media partnerships: Spread your own narrative at home and abroad
The aim of these media partnerships is to join forces and "to tell the other's narrative well," as the Chinese state media put it (http://world.people.com.cn/n/2015/0623/c1002 -27192173.html). The aim is to promote the viewpoints, values and interests of the other together. One goal is to promote the partner's image in their own country. But the pact also explicitly aims to shape perception and public discourse around the world, and especially in the global south. The China Global Television Network (CGTN) reaches 85 million viewers worldwide: on RT it is more than 350 million. However, international coverage is offered by far more Russian and Chinese channels than these two.
China and Russia are becoming more powerful. The task now is to make their voice heard more internationally in order to challenge the dominance of the Western narrative over global values and governance, as is repeatedly emphasized in analyzes and joint events.
Sino-Russian media cooperation takes many forms (http://media.people.com.cn/n1/2019/0103/c423884-30501781.html). Local reporters, for example, should write articles for the partner country. In addition, the media have set themselves the goal of pooling resources by exchanging content, writing amounts together and developing apps and platforms. Joint training courses and the exchange of key personnel should also serve to align reporting on current events and their assessment in traditional and new media in both countries.
The US is portrayed as the main adversary, the EU still as a potential ally
This collaboration seems to be bearing fruit. When reading the state-controlled media in both countries, it is noticeable that the Russian media coverage of China largely reflects Beijing's perspective - and vice versa. Russian media have published a number of reports and documentaries spreading the narrative of the Chinese one-party state about Hong Kong and Xinjiang (https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-gives-china-a-leg-up-in-foreign -broadcasting-11579003202). When reporting on the latest constitutional reform in Russia, the Chinese media followed the official Russian version (http://sputniknews.cn/russia/202007011031727252/).
The aim of this reporting is not only to present the politics of the other country in a good light. The state media cooperate to create mutual friends and enemies. Chinese and Russian headlines make it clear how the media in both countries portray the USA, but also the West as a whole, as common adversaries. The USA in particular is often described as an opponent in condescending and sarcastic language and mutual support is signaled in order to push them back (https://ria.ru/20201005/kitay-1578106797.html). After the US election and in particular the storming of the Capitol, the media in both states emphasized the weaknesses of the political system and the decline of the geopolitical dominance of the USA (https://merics.org/en/opinion/state-uncertainty-chinas-reaction -us-election-betrays-its-fears, https://www.fpri.org/fie/foreign-state-media-global-leadership). A widely shared post on Chinese news platforms described the recent protests in Russia as being spurred on by the US (https://www.sohu.com/a/446553381_99985585).
In comparison, the European Union is not presented quite so one-sidedly, depending on the topic. An article in China's People's Daily newspaper about an alleged Russian cyber attack on EU institutions failed to make a clear statement (http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2020-08/06/nw.D110000renmrb_20200806_6 -17.htm). Russian coverage took a tougher line on this, but did not resort to the hostile tone that is almost routinely heard on US-related news. In contrast to this rather cautious reporting, a visit by a Czech official to Taiwan sparked harsh condemnation from the Chinese media, which the Russian media followed. The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV and other media took over the reporting and testimony from RT in early February (CCTV: https://tv.cctv.com/2021/02/02/VIDEO7gdSKGnqMub0T34l5xF210202.shtml; RT: https://www.youtube. com / watch? v = 6TaG7jOlRmI & feature = emb_title) that Navalnyj and his staff are being supported by the British foreign intelligence service to overthrow Putin.
Cooperations like this are not just part of the Sino-Russian relationship. From Brazil to Italy to Zambia, China is very interested in strengthening the coordination of reporting (https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/en/geral/noticia/2019-11/brazils-and-chinas-communication -firms-expand-cooperation, http://chinaplus.cri.cn/news/china/9/20190321/264663.html, https://www.dw.com/en/chinas-contentious-stake-in-zambias -broadcast-media / a-49492207).
The impact on national and global perception should not be underestimated
Media commentators and scholars have argued that such official attempts by the state to cultivate their image have only a limited impact on how Russia and China are perceived, especially by the broader population of the other country (https://meduza.io/feature/2020/ 07/27 / eto-polnyy-feyspalm, https://meduza.io/en/episodes/2020/07/31/the-sino-russian-propaganda-pact-how-moscow-and-beijing-bungled-a- media-partnership-meant-to-promote-each-other). But it should be remembered that alternative perspectives are rare in the Russian and even more so in the Chinese media. In both countries, the official news channels play a key role in how global events are portrayed and how key international actors are ranked. After all, Russian citizens still perceive China more positively than any other country in Europe. 60 percent of Russians have a positive or very positive view of China (https://sinofon.cz/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/COMP-poll-final.pdf).
Our media analysis also makes it clear that the cooperation is not only aimed at spreading a positive narrative about the respective partner country. Much more emphasis is placed on creating a common threatening backdrop. To put it simply, in order to gain public support for the Sino-Russian strategic relationship and the world politics of the two states, the citizens of China and Russia do not necessarily have to have an unreservedly positive view of the other country. Much more important is when they are united in assessing who the common enemies are.
The same dynamic of building common enemy images is reflected in the international media landscape, where China and Russia are expanding their presence and reach. The narrative with a positive omen about the politics of both states is accompanied by criticism of an unjust Western and US-centered international order, whose time has run out.
The relatively friendly reporting on the EU is likely due to its rather cautious foreign policy and the fact that it is one of the largest trading partners of both China and Russia (https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu- china_factsheet_06_2020_0.pdf, http://www.worldstopexports.com/russias-top-import-partners/). However, this does not rule out the possibility that the media in both countries could turn against the EU if the EU reconsiders its stance on China and Russia and takes a more confrontational line on a number of issues - from international trade to human rights. The EU must be aware of this dynamic and the international diffusion of narratives and show a willingness to convey its own position and arguments to the world.
The text was published on December 22, 2020 under the title "Chinese and Russian media partner to› tell each other’s stories well ‹" and is available in the original English at: https://merics.org/de/kommentar/chinese-and-russian-media-partner-tell-each-others-stories-well. The editors of the Russia analyzes would like to thank MERICS for the permission to use the text in German translation.
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