How Chinese networks eye India’s domestic events to spread disinformation: Logically

How Chinese networks eye India’s domestic events to spread disinformation: Logically

By: Team Logically Facts&
September 6 2023

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How Chinese networks eye India’s domestic events to spread disinformation: Logically

A Logically Investigation into Chinese networks. (Source: Adobe Stock)

A major train crash in Odisha and a bridge collapse in Bihar were among the many incidents from India that gained widespread attention in Chinese state-run media and on social media platforms between April and July,  according to research by Logically, a technology company tackling potentially harmful online content and disinformation based in the UK, India and the US.

The investigation uncovered efforts by Chinese networks to exploit instances of infrastructure failure in India to advocate for "closer cooperation" with the neighboring country rather than participate in initiatives supported by the United States. 

In the course of the investigation, Logically employed its AI-driven threat intelligence platform, Logically Intelligence, to monitor activities on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo, Bilibili, and Douyin. The Odisha train accident, Bihar bridge collapse, Manipur violence, India’s response to border disputes, and eviction of Chinese journalists from India – these events were analyzed by Logically to learn how Chinese networks spread propaganda and disinformation on India.

(Click here to download the full report)

Infrastructure failures and accidents targeted 

On June 2, a major train accident involving three trains took place in Balasore, Odisha, resulting in the tragic loss of nearly 300 lives. This incident gave rise to a multitude of false and misleading narratives, which were also debunked by Logically Facts, Logically’s independent editorial and fact-checking unit.

During its investigation, Logically uncovered that Chinese state-run media seized the opportunity to publish articles calling for “India to cooperate” with China in the wake of the accident. 

Chinese bloggers also asserted that the incident had "shattered Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream of building India into a great power." Logically’s investigation found that Chinese users on Weibo and X (formerly Twitter) shared stock visuals of overcrowded Indian trains, partly blaming them for the loss of lives in such accidents. Logically Facts, too, found old and unrelated images and videos of crowded compartments were shared as visuals of the passenger train involved in the accident. 

Within two days of the train crash, an under-construction bridge in Bhagalpur district of Bihar collapsed into the Ganga River. The bridge had collapsed for the second time since its construction began in 2014. In no time, Chinese social media platforms were rife with discussions that pushed the claims that accidents like the Bihar bridge collapse were a result of low-quality infrastructure building, which was a by-product of corruption and political divisions. Chinese news outlets, like The Global Times, suggested that India lacked the capability to independently construct robust infrastructure and needed to cooperate with China to improve its capabilities. 

Manipur unrest gets significant attention

Unrest in Manipur has resulted in the death of more than 180 people so far, as recurring bouts of violent clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities have persisted since May 3. Following months of suspension, internet services in the state have been partially restored

Logically’s investigation had detected multiple instances where Chinese users attempted to frame the conflict as a sectarian issue by emphasizing the religious identities of the Meitei and Kuki communities. It revealed that some Chinese social media users referred to the Kukis as “Manipuris” and the Meiteis as “Hindus,” and suggested collusion between the Indian army and “Hindu thugs” against “Manipuris.” 

Another narrative included claims that “Manipur was never a part of India.” Calls for independence in the state being ‘justified’ was another dominant narrative on Weibo, Youku, and X around the discourse on Manipur riots.

Logically Facts also discovered that misinformation or disinformation played a significant role in fueling the ongoing violence, notably in cases such as the brutal assault on two women from the Kuki-Zomi tribal community who were paraded naked and sexually attacked by a mob in Manipur. This incident, which sparked outrage in India, was used on Weibo to amplify the idea that India is unsafe for women. One Weibo user, with over 1.85 million followers, even used the incident to urge China to intervene in India’s seven northeastern states.

Border disputes in focus again

Logically's investigation uncovered posts, with massive reach, on Weibo and Douyin that amplified the narrative that India is “illegally” occupying Arunachal Pradesh. Several posts also called for boycotting G20 meetings in the northeastern state. 

Asserting its territorial claims, on August 28,  China unveiled its "standard map," which includes Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory, and also incorporates the Aksai Chin region evoking a sharp reaction from India. In April, China had renamed 11 places in Arunachal, which it refers to as South Tibet, to reinforce its claims over the region. 

Disinformation campaigns by Chinese social media users have frequently targeted the Sino-Indian dispute, particularly when conflicts arise between the two nations along their border. After a clash between Indian and Chinese forces on December 9, 2022, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh, the claim that China had killed more than 300 Indian soldiers circulated with much fervor online. Logically Facts debunked this false claim, part of a wider narrative that made unverified claims about the number of Indian casualties. Some Chinese social media accounts shared photographs reportedly from the 2020 Galwan clash to support claims of injuries on the Indian side caused during the Tawang conflict in 2022.

Eviction of journalists raises eyebrows

Logically’s investigation also found that the expulsion of Chinese and Indian journalists from each other's countries attracted significant attention on Chinese networks. Articles in Chinese media outlets alleged that India's actions aimed to stifle critical journalism concerning domestic matters, particularly during the G20 summit. Additionally, these articles asserted that India exerted influence over think tanks and journalists to disseminate anti-China and anti-Pakistan news.

In a related development, tech conglomerate Meta, in its latest adversarial threat report, said it had removed nearly 8,700 China-based Facebook accounts and pages for ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior.’ The report said that the network targeted Taiwan, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Japan, among many regions in the world. Its investigation even found links to individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement, the report said.

Meta views ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’ as synchronized efforts using fake accounts to manipulate public discourse for a strategic goal. 

About Logically Facts

Logically Facts is Logically’s independent fact-checking unit established in April 2023. Focused on reducing the spread of harmful discourse, Logically Facts utilizes the expertise of fact-checkers to deliver accurate fact checks at scale and provide people with more reliable and accurate information. Logically Facts is also a verified signatory to International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) Code of Principles and goes through annual certification.

For more information, please visit Logically Facts

About Logically 
Founded in 2017, Logically combines artificial intelligence with expert analysts to tackle harmful and manipulative content at speed and scale. We work to reduce the individual, institutional, and societal damage caused by misleading and deceptive online discourse. In 2021, Logically was named one of the world’s most innovative artificial intelligence companies by Fast Company and won the Rising Star in Tech CogX Award. The company has offices in the UK, US, and India. For more information, please visit Logically.

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