China and Russia attack Biden’s “so-called” summit of democracy

A spate of tweets from Chinese diplomats referred to the event as the “so-called” democracy summit, while a Russian political commentator writing in a state-run Chinese newspaper compared the US initiative to “a brothel mistress teaching schoolgirls morals”. ”

Authoritarian propaganda experts told CNN that the media lightning came from official mouthpieces – rather than shadowy bots and trolls – reflecting concerns over US efforts to garner support for democratic norms, potentially isolating Beijing and Moscow.

“[China and Russia] see this as an opportunity to heighten cynicism in the political West and undermine all headlines at this summit, “said Jessica Brandt, policy director for the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

It’s a well-known game book, the kind of leverage the US is likely to struggle with for years as it competes with repressive governments for global governance-making, according to analysts.

“You see this really concerted effort [from China] Undermine US democracy and take an alternate view, said Kenton Thibaut, a China-based fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

The “Summit for Democracy” is one of the Biden government‘s most prominent efforts to promote democratic norms. The conference will host virtual meetings on Thursday and Friday, attended by representatives from 100 governments, as well as civil society groups and journalists, according to the White House.

“We approach this week with both humility and confidence. Humility by listening and learning and not shrinking from our shortcomings; trust in our constant pursuit of a more perfect union,” Uzra State Secretary for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights Zeya said on Tuesday.

Biden’s government plans to use the summit to announce new initiatives to fight corruption and defend free and fair elections, a senior administration official told reporters. It strongly invited Taiwan to participate.

Chinese and Russian officials are trying to undermine this message.

Over the weekend, China hosted its own virtual International Democracy Forum, which is reported to have politicians and scholars from more than 120 countries joined, and published a white paper falsely claiming its one-party system is a democracy that works better than that System in the USA.

The ambassadors of China and Russia to the US outraged in a joint opinion article published in late November by the American magazine The National Interest that the summit was “anti-democratic”. The Chinese and Russian diplomats mistakenly called their countries democracies.

Bret Schafer, a senior official tracking disinformation with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, said “Democracy” was the most popular Twitter hashtag for Chinese diplomatic and other government accounts over the past week.

“It really was a messaging priority [for China] For weeks, “Schäfer told CNN.

When asked how the Biden government might respond to the Russian and Chinese narratives surrounding the summit, a senior civil servant said: “Today, many autocratic governments spread the lie that societies can only ensure prosperity and security by restricting the actions of citizens the truth.”

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Despite China’s authoritarian political system and well-documented human rights violations, the country’s propagandists see promoting Chinese government ideas as a route to legitimacy on the world stage, Thibaut said.

“This is in line with what China has been trying to do in recent years to redefine certain concepts on the world stage, including human rights and democracy,” she told CNN.

Some experts hope the summit will provide concrete steps to tackle the damage disinformation is doing in democracies by spreading lies about elections and the coronavirus.

Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Wilson Center, urged the Biden government to build support for an alliance to counter the anti-democratic disinformation fueled by China, Russia and other countries.

“Disinformation from both foreign actors and domestic sources threatens the very foundations of democracies around the world and plays an important role in many of the world’s crises,” Jankowicz told CNN. “It is important for the Biden government to stress that the truth is a cornerstone of both the Biden era and the democratic community it seeks to build.”


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