China Calling: Slovaks Wonder What’s Behind Beijing’s Media Offensive

Lately, however, China has been stepping up its media game and taking centre stage, surfing on the pandemic wave.

"The Chinese embassy in Slovakia has started an information offensive," the Slovak cyber security portal Infosecurity.sk noted last month.

At the same time, the Slovak Defence Ministry published an "Infodemic" report naming both China and Russia as the two main countries spreading disinformation related to COVID-19.

This would seem an accomplishment for the Chinese embassy in Bratislava, which only set up its Facebook page this February. But although the page has gathered only few hundred followers, disinformation and security experts see it as significant.

Some experts say that what seems a Chinese media offensive in Slovakia forms part of a wider global international communication strategy and media campaign, focused on the coronavirus pandemic. Others fear it is the beginning of a new "hybrid threat".

Two men wearing face masks stand in front of a billboard in Beijing, China, 12 June 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/WU HONG

Pandemic puts China's image to the test

Dominik Stepanovic, an expert from the analytical unit of the Slovak Defence Ministry, and author of the recent report, told BIRN that China felt "under growing pressure" in terms of its image because of the pandemic.

"Pointing to Wuhan as the source of contagion feeds into a general negative view of China in the world," he said.

"This is enforced by accusations of an inadequate first response to the COVID-19 threat and of the regime's efforts to cover up the situation at the time when they could have prevented the pandemic with earlier measures," he added.

"This communication strategy is similar in all European states, so it's not a...

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