Ukraine dominates the agenda of the EU-China summit. There is no shortage of issues for the EU and China to discuss at a bilateral summit, including economic ties and the fate of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), human rights issues, health, and climate change, or China's pressure on Lithuania. However, the war in Ukraine largely overshadowed other issues this time. While both China and the EU have called for the war to end and for negotiations to take place, there is very little common ground beyond that superficial stance. While EU leaders emphasized the “special responsibility” that China has as a permanent member of the UN and warned about potential secondary sanctions should Beijing come to Moscow's aid, Chinese readouts, on the other hand, repeated the boilerplate statements on the “Cold War mentality”. Furthermore, President Xi Jinping called on the EU to “form its own perception of China and adopt an independent policy”, apparently dropping a hint at the EU's close ties with the US. The summit failed to make progress on the Ukraine issue, with EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell referring to it as a “dialogue of the deaf”. Regarding bilateral relations, the discussion touched upon the reciprocal sanctions and China's coercive actions against Lithuania, emphasizing the need for cooperation in terms of climate change and tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the summit representing a crucial diplomatic effort to discuss all tense issues and potential areas for cooperation, it seems the EU's vision of China as a “systemic rival” prevailed, uncovering the growing divide between Brussels and Beijing.
China steps up its amplification of Russian messaging on Ukraine. As we have noted previously, China has not mirrored all Russian narratives on the war in Ukraine. In particular, Beijing has eschewed those vilifying the Ukrainian government and its people. However, it has rather enthusiastically amplified anti-Western narratives that suit its own interest. The most prominent example is disinformation about US biolabs in Ukraine, which China adopted as a regular talking point on the war. On the Bucha atrocities by the Russian army, China has largely tried to remain noncommittal, but state media have highlighted the Russian rebuttals of the crimes. For example, the Global Times suggested it was a fake ploy misused by Western media to endanger the progress of peace talks. At the same time, virulent pro-Russian rhetoric is rampant on the Chinese domestic internet, with the authorities apparently unwilling to seriously restrict it. Chinese schools and universities as well as party organizations across the country have even organized studying sessions on the “correct” understanding of the war, focused on giving credence to Russian grievances and ramping up anti-Western framing of the war. However, this position is not based on China’s sympathy for its partner. Instead, the understanding for Russia seems to stem from similar Chinese narratives about the West and its usefulness to this overarching propaganda. Namely, Chinese state media has long pontificated on alleged concerted efforts to strangle China internationally, curb its growth and overthrow the communist regime.
Slovak government approves Action Plan for Coordinated Countering of Hybrid Threats. The new plan sets a basis for Slovakia's ambitions in strengthening the resilience of the country against subversive activities of various actors which endanger democracy and its key principles, such as human rights and the rule of law. The core aim of this plan is to reinforce coordination among various government departments and adopt a whole-government approach to raise public awareness of hybrid threats and establish a system for strategic communication. The measures included in the plan focus on security risks related to foreign investment in critical infrastructure, media, and academic sector, and influence on election processes. One of the core principles addresses the importance of education in digital technologies and support of critical thinking in the general population, especially in raising awareness of cybersecurity. Setting a concrete set of actions for various governmental institutions, the plan comes in the context of the war in Ukraine which makes countering hybrid threats even more crucial, especially in the information space. For instance, the plan emphasizes analysis of legislative measures against the production and dissemination of disinformation. The importance of creating a sound legal basis for further steps in this regard has been driven home by the events of last weeks, when the Slovak National Security Agency blocked one of the most popular disinformation websites Hlavné správy, due to spreading pro-Russian narratives related to the invasion in Ukraine.