GT investigates: Rumor about ‘China militarily aiding Russia’ exposes ill intentions of Western media
Published: Feb 22, 2023 06:36 PM
A plane of Russia's Volga-Dnepr loads in the cargo area of Zhengzhou airport in Central China's Henan Province on August 16, 2022. (Photo: VCG)

A plane of Russia's Volga-Dnepr loads in the cargo area of Zhengzhou airport in Central China's Henan Province on August 16, 2022. (Photo: VCG)

As the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine conflict approaches, observers have noticed that a few people in the West are hyping up another wave of rumors targeting China. While some NATO members are stirring up tensions by supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, their politicians and media are preoccupied with digging dirt on China, saying Chinese companies have either sold or donated weapons to Russia.

In response to questions related to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's remarks that the US already "has evidence that Chinese companies are sending non-lethal support to Russia, but they may now send lethal support as well," China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin noted that "it is the US, not China, that has been pouring weapons into the battlefield. The US is in no position to tell China what to do. We would never stand for finger-pointing or even coercion and pressurizing from the US on our relations with Russia."

"On the Ukraine issue, China's position boils down to supporting talks for peace. The international community is fully aware who is calling for dialogue and striving for peace, and who is fanning the flames and stoking confrontation," Wang said. "We urge the US side to seriously reflect on the role it has played, do something to actually help de-escalate the situation and promote peace talks, and stop deflecting the blame and spreading disinformation. China will continue to stay firm on the side of peace and dialogue, and play a constructive part in easing the situation," Wang added. 

The Global Times reporters found that the accusations against China and Chinese companies, just like their previous rounds of smears, are totally false, after talks with insiders and investigations on the content and sources of the accusations.

"It is clear that what the West, especially the US, has shown in the relevant issues is like pirates who plunder and satisfy their own selfish interests at the expense of others. There is no justice, no morality. The US has basically lost its ethics and rational view of China. It is completely crazy," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times. 

Clichés and rumors

The latest round of rumors accusing Chinese companies of "selling Russia weapons" firstly came from the mainstream American media, usually citing anonymous sources or unreliable data to defend their claims.

A recent NBC article published on February 19 said "China may be providing non-lethal military assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine," by citing "four US officials familiar with the matter" and "sources familiar with the matter." 

Earlier, The Wall Street Journal said on February 4 that Chinese companies shipped "navigation equipment, jamming technology and jet-fighter parts" to Russia, by citing data not from official Chinese or Russian trade or customs departments, but from a document compiled by C4ADS, a non-profit anti-China think tank that often makes alarmist, untrustworthy reports.

In January, just days before and after Germany announced it would donate its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, several US media outlets said that Chinese companies had sold "flak jackets and helmets" to Russia.

CNN reported on January 23 that evidence has suggested that "Chinese companies have sold non-lethal equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine." It quoted "multiple sources familiar with US and European intelligence" as saying that the equipment Chinese companies "sold" includes "items like flak jackets and helmets." 

Similar accusations were later seen in many reports from other Western media outlets, most of which simply repeated the US media's words. For instance, a Polish news website published an article in late January with the eye-grabbing title, "China sells helmets and bulletproof vests to Russia," which quoted CNN.

This wave of groundless accusations by the Western media is actually nothing new. Early last December, the rumor that "Chinese companies sell flak jackets and helmets to Russia" had appeared in Western media coverage.

The Global Times found the rumor first came from an article by Ukrainian news site Defense Express on November 27, 2022. The article mentioned Russian military transport plane An-124, saying that about 10 An-124s flights were seen landing at Zhengzhou airport in Central China's Henan Province within a week that month. The plane arrived in order to pick up "military aid - equipment, bulletproof vests, helmets, clothing," said the article.

'Military aid' fake news

The fact is that the so-called "military aid" was ordinary commodities including clothes that Russian importers purchased from China.

Before the Ukrainian media hype, the Global Times found that Chinese civil aviation industry media outlet CAAC News had reported on November 25 that three An-124s landed at Zhengzhou airport on November 23. The planes carried "several hundred tons of cross-border e-commerce goods such as clothes" back to Moscow, CAAC News said. "[These products] will be delivered to families of the Russian populace," it added.

A major point that the Western media believes is "suspicious" is that the An-124 is usually regarded as a military transport plane. Some media outlets therefore attacked China for "sending Russia military equipment," by groundlessly connecting the scene of a Russian military transport plane landing at a Chinese airport.

Did An-124s really transport military equipment from China to Russia? The truth can be easily found out, as the Global Times talked to several Chinese freight forwarders who engage in export freight business from Zhengzhou and its surrounding areas to Russia.

All the freight forwarders reached by the Global Times said that An-124 planes are often used for civil purposes, even though the plane was originally designed for military transport.

"We often see An-124s coming to transport commodities here. It's common," said an export freight forwarder surname Zhou. "Everyone who has enough products can charter an An-124 plane. It's nothing special."

Documents and media coverage show that air transport companies in various countries have bought An-124 planes and have used them to transport civilian goods globally.

Ukrainian companies have An-124 planes as well. In late 2020, two An-124s transported anti-COVID supplies from China to other countries, CAAC News reported on November 27. The planes were from Russia's Volga-Dnepr and Ukraine's Antonov Airlines, said CAAC News.

"The Western media is hysterical. Normal trade between China and Russia will be blackened and demonized by them. So what we see is that the West is accusing for the sake of accusing, and using some trumped-up charges to slander China. This is already a Western cliché," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times. 

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Dirty tricks

The toxic media campaign against China by the US-led West has never stopped throughout the past year of Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

Global audiences have got bored of their several waves of "China military aid to Russia" smears. The earliest wave came in March 2022, as Western politicians and media couldn't wait to point fingers at China right after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine broke out.

"The US has told allies that China signaled its willingness to provide military assistance [to Russia]…" the Financial Times reported on March 15, 2022, quoting "officials familiar with American diplomatic cables on the exchange" as saying. In the following months, similar rumors were often seen in the Western media, all of which were no more than groundless accusations with anonymous sources.

Apart from citing unreliable sources, a common trick that Western media outlets usually use in fabricating "military aid" rumors is to talk about topics like "what will happen if China militarily aids Russia" or "whether China's possible military aid violates international law," observers told the Global Times.

Compared to looking for "evidence" to support their accusations, the Western media prefers discussing these "assumptions," in order to create a suspicious atmosphere, observers noted.

Li said that their intention is to "permanently weaken the powerful influence that China has accumulated in the international community over the past decades, and at the same time, they attempt to use this smear campaign as a preface for their more toxic and harmful moves in the future."

"The US and the West are not satisfied with the Ukraine crisis; they want to create new conflicts while the Ukraine crisis is still evolving. They create those new conflicts aimed at China and would lead the world into chaos. The reason for the repeated rumors about China is that in the process of weakening Europe and Russia, they want to drag China into the middle of the crisis. Their ultimate goal is to weaken China and at the same time, destroy a good environment for China's internal and external development. The strategy of the US is selfish and appalling. The hazards are endless and require extreme vigilance," Li said. 

While NATO is busy fueling the tensions by giving Ukraine weapons, China has been offering humanitarian assistance to the victims of both sides. The Chinese government has provided several batches of humanitarian supplies including infant formula, quilts and moisture-proof mats to Ukrainians, according to Geng Shuang, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

China's position on Ukraine has been objective and just, said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning on January 30. "We are never a bystander, and we would never add fuel to the fire, still less exploit the crisis," she said at the daily press conference that day.

"The US is the one who started the Ukraine crisis and the biggest factor fueling it," Mao remarked. "If the US truly wants an early end to the crisis and cares for the lives of the Ukrainian people, then it needs to stop sending weapons and profiteering from the fighting."