Why the Chinese Internet Is Cheering Russia’s Invasion

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The countries’ friendship has “no limits,” they declared.

Given that the leaders met just weeks before the invasion, it would be understandable to conclude that China should have had better knowledge of the Kremlin’s plans. But growing evidence suggests that the echo chamber of China’s foreign policy establishment might have misled not only the country’s internet users, but its own officials.

My colleague Edward Wong reported that over a period of three months, senior U.S. officials held meetings with their Chinese counterparts and shared intelligence that detailed Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine. The Americans asked the Chinese officials to intervene with the Russians and tell them not to invade.

The Chinese brushed the Americans off, saying that they did not think an invasion was in the works. U.S. intelligence showed that on one occasion, Beijing shared the Americans’ information with Moscow.

Recent speeches by some of China’s most influential advisers to the government on international relations suggest that the miscalculation may have been based on deep distrust of the United States. They saw it as a declining power that wanted to push for war with false intelligence because it would benefit the United States, financially and strategically.

Jin Canrong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told the state broadcaster China Central Television, or CCTV, on Feb. 20 that the U.S. government had been talking about imminent war because an unstable Europe would help Washington, as well the country’s financial and energy industries. After the war started, he admitted to his 2.4 million Weibo followers that he was surprised.

Just before the invasion, Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, ridiculed the Biden administration’s predictions of war in a 52-minute video program. “Why did ‘Sleepy Joe’ use such poor-quality intelligence on Ukraine and Russia?” he asked, using Donald Trump’s favorite nickname for President Biden.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Shen had held a conference call about the Ukraine crisis with a brokerage’s clients, titled, “A war that would not be fought.”

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