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Inside the Chinese Twitter spin machine

Because the Beijing trolls clearly despise Trump’s America, fewer pundits seem to mind

April 23, 2020

1:16 PM

23 April 2020

1:16 PM

Donald Trump is often called a troll — and, in the internet sense, he is. Certainly, he has elevated the art of irritating people online into a form of politics, diplomacy and statesmanship. It’s perhaps his most significant innovation. But the trouble with innovation, as we all know, is that at some point the Chinese will copy you — and that’s exactly what some influential Twitter voices are doing right now to counter Trump’s viral appeal. Take for instance the curious account of Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Chinese and English editions of the Global Times, another CCP rag which spews out state propaganda dressed as journalism.

Xijin is another fanatical nationalist, or at least pretends to be for public advancement. He’s taken to antagonizing Americans on the internet — trolling them, in other words — and he seems pretty good at it. On Tuesday, he tweeted that picture of a nurse in Denver standing in front a Trumpist anti-lockdown protestor with the following words: ‘He is the “Tank Man” of the US. He tries to block the arrogance, anti-scientific temperament of some Americans, which is, however, supported and promoted by the US President.’

You see what he did there? By trying to invert that classic image of Chinese suppression, he suggests that it is now Trump’s America that stands in the way of progress — unlike good old China, say, which started the spread of the virus, then spread it around the world while covering up the truth. If you find yourself getting irritated, don’t. That’s exactly what Xijin wants. He’s trolling, you see. Today, he threw another hate-click petrol bomb onto social media: ‘The US can’t produce face masks now and its aircraft carriers can’t move, all it’s left is big-mouth politicians like you. What you’re spewing out is just political virus that undermines global solidarity. Tell the world what contribution the US has made to humanity’s virus fight?’

How about you tell us, Hu, you obnoxious chauvinist, ? Now, now…don’t fall into the sovereign-digital trap! He’s like the CCP version of Jacob Wohl. In fact, Beijing should consider hiring Wohl to teach them a thing or two about winding people up. He could do with the money.

Xijn’s partner in online crime is the now notorious Lijian Zhao, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of China, who seems to be the advanced arm of Beijing’s information assault on basic concepts like, er, the truth. Zhao famously circulated the idea that American agents spread the virus.

‘It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,’ he tweeted. ‘Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!’

He followed up with another tweet  sharing an article arguing that the ‘virus Originated in the US.’ It was posted on GlobalResearch, a website promoting conspiracy theories, including articles lambasting the ‘Vaccine Deep State’ and questioning whether Osama bin Laden ever existed.

Zhao seems to have lost confidence in the ‘America did it’ theory, poor lamb — he’s now taken to trying to debunk as unscientific the increasingly popular idea that the virus originated not from Chinese ‘wet markets’ but from a government lab in Wuhan. He eagerly retweets the account of a certain Ajit Singh, a ‘journalist. Grad student’ who doesn’t seem to do much journalism beyond trashing American imperialism, ‘Washington’s new Cold War Strategy’ and defending China’s interests. He also appears to have published a chapter called ‘Reform and Revolution in the People’s Republic in a book called Keywords in Radical Philosophy and Education. He has a Patreon account, if any Spectator readers are feeling generous.

Another intriguingly popular China spin account is Hua Chunying, foreign ministry spokesperson and director-general of China’s Department of Information, who tweets rather more subtle stuff about ‘Multilateralism and Global Solidarity.’

It’s funny to think how many years the anti-Trump media has spent decrying Russian bots for sowing discord in America. It seems that is a Chinese game now — only because the Beijing trolls clearly despise Trump’s America, fewer pundits seem to mind.

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