‘Too Naïve’ About China: EU Slams Beijing for ‚Huge Wave‘ of Covid-19 Disinformation Campaign

Written by | Saturday, June 13th, 2020

“…the EU has been too naïve in our relations with China,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday (9 June), referring to his recent interview, and added that “We have to build realistic relations with China to defend our values and interests.” Speaking in Brussels after what he called an “open and frank dialogue” with top Chinese officials as a part of the so-called ‚EU-China strategic dialogue‘, Borrell also noted that “We had three hours of talks across a wide range of topics. It was an open and frank dialogue.” Borrell, a former President of the European Parliament, admittted there were “still concrete disagreements” between the EU and China, including concerns about alleged human rights violations by China in Tibet and Beijing’s new security laws in Hong Kong, both of which he raised during the talks with Chinese officials. “It is clear we don’t have the same political systems or the same global ambitions, but China is not playing a role that can threaten world peace. It has no military ambitions and nor does it use force to participate in military conflicts,” Borrell also said.
Borrell’s words were echoed by the European Commission Vice-President V?ra Jourová who became the first top EU leader to openly accuse Beijing of running „targeted“ false campaigns inside the EU, as the bloc set out a plan to tackle a “huge wave” of health hoaxes and false information about the coronavirus pandemic. In a move that indicates a clear policy shift in Brussels, Jourová said that “if we have evidence, we should not shy away from naming and shaming.” While the charge against Russia has been made on many occasions, this is the first time the EU executive has publicly named China as a source of disinformation. “What we also witnessed is a surge in narratives undermining our democracies and in effect our response to the crisis, for example the claim there are secret US biological laboratories on former Soviet republics has been spread by both pro-Kremlin outlets, as well as Chinese officials and state media,” the Commission Vice-President added.
The Commission also called on social media giants like Twitter, Google, Facebook and YouTube to do more to counter disinformation on their platforms and to remove misleading and dangerous content. The Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok has become the latest company to sign the code of practice, the EU executive noted, while also calling on the tech companies to be more transparent and compile monthly reports with detailed information on steps taken to limit coronavirus disinformation. “The pandemic showed that disinformation does not only harm the health of our democracies, it also harms the health of our citizens,” Jourová stressed. These statements by EU’s top policymakers are likely to raise tensions between Brussels and Beijing ahead of a video summit between Chinese and EU leaders later this month.

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