The Chinese and Russian state media are going all out to trash the Biden administration’s Summit for Democracy, which is taking place this week, labeling it hypocritical.
In a flurry of tweets, Chinese diplomats refer to the gathering as a “so-called” democracy summit, while a Russian political pundit writing in a state-run Chinese daily compares the US plan to “a mistress of a brothel teaching morale [sic] to schoolgirls.”
The fact that the media blitz is coming from official mouthpieces rather than hidden bots and trolls suggests concern about US efforts to gather support for democratic principles while potentially isolating Beijing and Moscow, according to experts on authoritarian propaganda.
“[China and Russia] see this as an opportunity to exacerbate cynicism in the political West and undermine any headlines that come out of this summit,” said Jessica Brandt, policy director for the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative at the Brookings Institution.
Despite China’s authoritarian political system and well-documented human rights abuses, the country’s propagandists see the promotion of Chinese notions of governance as a path to legitimacy on the world stage, Thibaut said.
“This is very much in line with what China’s been trying to do the last couple of years, which is redefine certain concepts on the world stage, including human rights and democracy,” a senior administration official told CNN.
Some experts are hoping the summit will deliver tangible steps to combat the harm disinformation does in democracies by spreading lies about elections or the coronavirus.
Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Wilson Center, urged the Biden administration to build support for an alliance to counter the anti-democratic disinformation pushed by China, Russia, and other countries.
“Disinformation from both foreign actors and domestic sources is threatening the bedrock of democracies around the world and playing a major part in many of the world’s crises,” Jankowicz told CNN. “It’s important for the Biden administration to emphasize that truth is a cornerstone of both the Biden era and the democratic community it hopes to build.”