By Keir Giles (Chatham House – Senior Consulting Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme)
Both Russia and China have mounted combined charm offensives and disinformation campaigns on the back of the pandemic. Shipments of ‘aid’ – reportedly of questionable utility and quality – have gone hand in hand with a concerted effort to deflect any blame from China for the early spread, and an ongoing drive by Russia to undermine states’ confidence and have sanctions lifted.
These concurrent operations have very different objectives, as Russia seeks to subvert international order while China is continuing its bid to demonstrate global leadership – but in both cases, they are seeking long-term gains by exploiting the inattention and distraction of their targets.
Both seek to present themselves as globally responsible stakeholders, but for divergent reasons – especially China which needs the rest of the world to recover and return to stability to ensure its own economic recovery. But despite this, the two campaigns appear superficially similar.