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Chinese Media Accidentally Publishes Censorship Guidelines on Russia-Ukraine Conflict

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: February 23, 2022
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing on February 4, 2022. (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

A Chinese state-run media outlet accidentally posted “instructions” on censoring information related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The guidelines were posted on Feb. 20 by Horizon News, a subset of Beijing News – a platform owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

The since-deleted Weibo post stated that any content painting Russia in an “unfavorable light” would fail to meet publishing requirements. The same rule also applied to any pro-Western framing of Communist China. 

China’s tight Internet censors coupled with the CCP’s strict limits on press freedoms, means news outlets are constrained in what they can say without government intervention.

In recent years, China has strengthened its alliance with Russia, and the two countries have become increasingly active economic partners. Trade between China and Russia has grown from $10.7 billion in 2004 to $140 billion by 2021, according to a study published by the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank. 

In addition, the two countries have also cooperated on joint naval drills and airspace surveillance in what the Chinese Foreign Defense Ministry has called “further developments of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sounded alarms across the world as tensions soar over the buildup of troops along his country’s border with Ukraine. The Kremlin announced on Feb. 21 that it would begin moving Russian troops into separatist border regions.

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Beijing: China’s position is ‘consistent’

Since the onset of the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv, Beijing has attempted to approach the situation with diplomatic caution. While answering several questions regarding China’s position on developments in Ukraine during a daily press briefing yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin repeatedly insisted that “China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent.” 

Although Wang noted that “the situation in Ukraine is getting worse,” he evaded answering questions regarding Beijing’s influence on Moscow and called on “all parties to exercise restraint, appreciate the importance of implementing the principle of indivisible security, and de-escalate the situation and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation.”

Even as China attempts to toe the line and tread carefully on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, its bias towards Moscow has been made clear many times before. In support of Russia’s provocations towards Ukraine, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has gone as far as to justify the Kremlin’s security concerns as “legitimate,” adding that they should be “taken seriously and addressed.” 

“Simply put, China has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support while refraining from treading on the toes of the United States and the European Union,” Ming Jinwei, a senior editor at state mouthpiece Xinhua News said in a blog post. 

“In the future, China will also need Russia’s understanding and support when wrestling with America to solve the Taiwan issue once and for all,” the editor added.

The CCP considers Taiwan (officially called the Republic of China) a renegade province. Though Beijing has indicated its preference for a peaceful “unification,” it has not ruled out military force and has vowed to reclaim the self-ruling island by any means necessary.

Biden imposes new sanctions on Russia

Meanwhile, on the American side, President Joe Biden announced a slew of new sanctions to punish Russia for what the White House described as the “beginning of a full fledged invasion.” 

President Joe Biden announced new sanctions yesterday on the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – which was built to ferry natural gas from Russia to Germany.

“These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement yesterday, adding that “[Russia] can no longer raise money from the West and can not trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”