Leaked documents from Russia exposed a pact between the two countries to spread propaganda.

Russian authorities initially promoted false propaganda. And when Russia had invaded Ukraine, a spokesperson from their defense ministry revived long-debunked claims that the US had been financing a bioweapons program in the area, alleging that Ukrainian laboratories had been conducting tests with bat coronaviruses to propagate the most lethal diseases secretly.

The technique of delivering false information was an age-old craft of the Russian government. Nevertheless, in the current situation, Russia found assistance from the Chinese. Within a brief period, Chinese officials and media outlets began to fabricate and repeat the story of biolabs. 

“China jumped on the biolabs conspiracy theory,” said Katja Drinhausen, an analyst with the Mercator Institute of China Studies in Berlin. Chinese officials and media outlets had spent the preceding months pushing the notion that the pandemic might have originated in a lab accident outside China. 

“It was like, here’s the perfect conspiracy theory coming out of Russia to support our ‘everywhere but China’ main talking point of the last year,” she said.

Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during the address “On the conduct of a special military operation” (Source: Presidential Executive Office of Russia/Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese Communist Party tabloid Global Times created two separate stories, one taking references from Sputnik News and the other containing a quote from Russian President Vladimir Putin saying, “What is the US hiding in the biolabs discovered in Ukraine?”

Since hostilities erupted at the beginning of the year, specialists have been astounded by a confluence of Russian and Chinese media accounts. Though some of the events probably happened by chance, with stories empowering both countries’ objectives, emails hacked from Russian state broadcaster VGTRK uncovered that China and Russia had committed to collaborating in media output by signing pacts at the ministerial level.

Apparently, an agreement was inked in July 2021, making it unmistakable that the two governments aimed to collaborate on news stories and narratives. During a virtual meeting that same month, high-ranking Russian and Chinese government and media representatives went over many news items and joint projects, which included swapping news material, trading digital media tactics, and creating television programs. The venture was led by Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communication and Mass Media and China’s National Radio and Television Administration.