By MIREMS Chinese Media Analyst Team
Over the course of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, mainland Chinese and Taiwanese media are all expressing their sentiments towards the situation, and these are echoed by their Canadian counterparts.
Both mainland Chinese and Taiwanese media acknowledge the complexities of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and are commenting on the US role as the leader of the West and NATO.
Mainland Chinese media have aggressively targeted the US, blaming the country for the current war due to its historical involvement in prompting NATO’s eastward expansion.
In contrast, Taiwanese media appears to be less critical, acknowledging the realities of China being a hard-to-defeat opponent not only for Taiwan, but also for the US.
Most members of the Chinese community in Canada are neutral about the Russia-Ukraine war. In our opinion, it is in part because members of the Chinese community have access to Chinese media or social applications from mainland China.
Mainland China’s perception of the United States and Western countries’ involvement
According to Chinese state media Beijing Daily, “With the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and the deepening of sanctions by the United States and Western countries, a game marked by ‘de-Russification’ is unfolding vigorously.” As various “extreme sanctions” are being implemented against Russia by the US and its allies, Beijing Daily’s Qiu Changqing criticizes these actions as showcasing “double standard to the fullest to achieve political self-interest.” Beijing Daily’s commentator Yuxin also calls out the US specifically, condemning the US for “acting as the primary instigator of the Russian-Ukraine conflict,” saying “the US and the West are using sanctions to control the world, and are trying to create a ‘one-sided’ anti-Russian voice.”
Chang’an Observation comments how the US is also negatively impacting the EU’s economy by boasting that “all Western allies are united against Russia.” The author says, “adopting a tough stance is a form of ‘political correctness’ in the West, and any ‘relaxation’ on Russia’s stance could lead to a storm of criticism.”
China Daily’s Dong Yifan describes Ukraine as “a pawn of the US to strategically destroy the Russian economy”. Whereas China Daily’s Pogosian claims that “the ultimate goal of the West is to create a pro-Western government in Russia, paving the way for further expansion of the EU and NATO.” Aside from criticizing the US and the West for “fanning the flames” in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Pogosian also reiterates China’s support for “peaceful solutions” to reconstruct world order.
Russian-Ukrainian war is a mirror for the China and Taiwan issue
In Taiwan’s independent media outlet The News Lens, Lai Yizhong shares reflections on the Russian-Ukrainian war and analyzes the implications for China and Taiwan. Lai describes the Russian-Ukrainian war as a “game of chess between the great powers that was orchestrated by the American boss to clear roadblocks.” Since the conflict erupted, pro-Beijing voices, also known as the Blue Camp, have painted the US as the villain and criticized the country for a lack of concern for Ukraine. Lai defends the US against this criticism by vaguely saying that “there are many reasons why the US does not directly send troops into Ukraine, but it is definitely not what the Blue Camp said about the US having no morals and not caring about Ukraine.”
Even though Lai defended the US, the author still has doubts about the US desire and ability to defend Taiwan if China did launch a violent attack. In Taiwanese newspaper China Times, Wang Hailiang questions the US chances of winning if Russia and China stand together in a war against Taiwan, since the US and Europe are already feeling powerless in responding to the current Russia and Ukraine situation. In light of the above speculations, Wang adds that he is uncertain if the US and its allies will abandon Taiwan or counterattack the People’s Liberation Army if the Taiwan Strait war does happen. Wang hypothesizes that “if the Taiwan Strait war breaks out and the US adopts similar or even more severe economic sanctions against China, China’s countermeasures will far exceed Russia’s, because they have a larger economy and are one of the largest trading countries in the world.” Hence, if the US does enforce sanctions on China, it will inevitably inflict damage to itself as well.
Similar to mainland Chinese media, Taiwanese media also singles out the US for being the lead of the Western countries. China Times’ Huang Zhenghui says “the ultimate goal of the US is to establish an ‘anti-China alliance’, and it is not difficult to achieve this goal, because the US holds Taiwan, or the Taiwan independence movement, as their ready-made trump card.” Huang says, “China’s close relationship with Russia is also tantamount to a wake-up call for the US, forcing them to reconsider their strategies if China does elicit a full Taiwan Strait war.”
Reactions of the Chinese community in Canada
According to the Vancouver-based Van People website, “The Chinese community sympathizes with the Russian and Ukrainian communities in Canada, as they all came to settle in Canada in hopes for a better life.” An analysis by MIREMS’ Chinese Team shows that the overall tone of the mainland Chinese sources in Canada towards Russia have been neutral, with no criticism or support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
This is in line with the approach that the Chinese foreign ministry is adopting, where its spokesperson Wang Wenbin has not expressed explicit support for either Russia or Ukraine, but says that “the issue between the two has been historically complex.”
As the Chinese media or social applications are strictly controlled by the government, their reports or comments are very closely aligned with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In contrast, media from the western countries have been strongly criticizing Russia since the invasion.
Having access to both Chinese and Western media at the same time is part of the reason why the majority of the Chinese community in Canada is neutral about the war, even though they do express sympathy toward people affected by the war and Ukrainian refugees that are forced to flee the country.
Aside from announcing economic sanctions against Russia, Vancouver’s Van Sky website reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced the expedition of processing Ukrainian refugee applications.
This news fueled discontent amongst the Chinese community, which has long criticized Trudeau’s refugee policies. According to a Van Sky article, the Chinese community described Trudeau’s management of Canada as “a mess” and said, “he should focus on resolving internal affairs instead of meddling in other countries’ business.” Furthermore, in Vancouver-based newspaper Rise Weekly, Wu Qiong believes that “Canada should stay away from risks and should not get involved in the escalation of [the Russian-Ukrainian] conflict.”
A March 18, 2022 article from the Washington-funded Radio Free Asia reports that pro-Russian rhetoric was spotted in Canada's Chinese community, which has some “experts” worrying that it will hurt the Chinese community's image.
The March 18th article quotes former MP Kenny Chiu, who heard a commentator on Vancouver’s CHMB AM 1320 Chinese radio station saying the West is “taking away the Russian people's wealth” and that “they may do the same to China next”. Chiu calls such commentary exaggerating and misleading, and it hurts the Chinese community in Canada because it will make others think the Chinese community is standing on the opposite side of Canadian mainstream values.
The article also reports that some Wechat and Chinese-Canadian forum posts contain twisted and exaggerating comments on the issue, such as “Chinese work hard to earn money and make a living, but their properties may be taken away one day”; “their US property, businesses, and listed corporations are all hostages”; and “Russia today, China tomorrow.”
Another commentator quoted in the article says that he knows many former officials from China currently in Canada, and they may be community leaders locally, but they really represent the Chinese government's voice. While some people really do think China is great, some may be following the Chinese government's rhetoric because they still have family and properties in their home country and must listen to the Communist Party. Meanwhile, some might be following instructions since they're given benefits.
The article also points out that while rallies have been held in many major Canadian cities with participants from various ethnicities, no representatives from Mainland Chinese communities have ever participated, nor have the National Congress of Chinese Canadians, the Chinese Benevolent Association or the Canadian Community Service Association ever released any statements concerning Ukraine's situation.
However, Sing Tao Vancouver reported that a lot of Mainland Chinese immigrants do support Ukraine, even if they may not be vocal about it, as some have donated to Ukraine, and some participated in efforts to counter misinformation about the war.
Sing Tao cited a Mainland Chinese immigrant who said: "Many may think Mainland immigrants all support Russia because no Chinese community organizations voiced support for Ukraine, but that's mistaken, because organizations can represent the community, but the community cannot be simply differentiated by China/Hong Kong/Taiwan. Groups with Chinese background are large in numbers and highly complicated, and cannot be represented or enveloped by just a few community organizations."
This immigrant also noted that: "WeChat's posts often get repeated a lot and the platform is also closely moderated. Because of this bias, it cannot represent the real opinions of Chinese readers.”