The Great Translation Movement Shines a Spotlight on China’s Propaganda

People at a rally to protest the war in Ukraine.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China has been actively promoting an alternative reality that pushes pro-Russia and pro-Putin messages. (Image: Eduard Kryzhanivskyi via Dreamstime)

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China’s propaganda machine has been actively promoting an alternative reality that pushes pro-Russia and pro-Putin messages. On heavily censored social media platforms in China, Internet users share their support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As documented by The New York Times, while the world overwhelmingly condemns the assault on Ukraine, the online opinion in China is mostly pro-Russia, pro-war, and pro-Putin.

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Chinese censors and far-right supporters of Russia in the West have sided with these nationalist views and demonstrated a very high tolerance for statements that belittle the Ukrainian people or portray them as neo-Nazis.

The Great Translation Movement

A group of Chinese dissidents decided to take action to name and shame those who praise Putin, the unjustified invasion, authoritarianism, and the spread of far-right nationalist ideas on China’s social media.

Calling their social media campaign “The Great Translation Movement,” this group of anonymous dissidents created a Twitter account to collect social media messages that support radical ideas and Russian war activities and translate them to English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and other languages.

As such, the campaign offers people who do not understand the Chinese language an opportunity to examine China’s propaganda materials. Since its creation in March 2022, The Great Translation Movement Twitter account now has almost 170,000 followers.

The identities of the campaign organizers remain unknown due to security concerns, and the translation movement does not have an identifiable leadership team, nor do they know each other’s names or whereabouts.

A group of Chinese dissidents decided to take action to name and shame those who praise Putin, the unjustified invasion, authoritarianism, and the spread of far-right nationalist propaganda on China's social media.
A group of Chinese dissidents decided to take action to name and shame those who praise Putin, the unjustified invasion, authoritarianism, and the spread of far-right nationalist propaganda on China’s social media. (Image: via Wikipedia)

Raising awareness

The organizers want to raise awareness among people worldwide that China is not as nice as its propaganda says and that people living in China are poisoned by arrogance, nationalism, cruelty, and a lack of sympathy.

Translating materials from Chinese media and social media is not a new task. Journalists, researchers, and professionals working on China-related work regularly do this to help non-Chinese language users understand critical information regarding China. However, The Great Translation Movement created a new channel for Internet users worldwide to see the dark side of the Chinese Internet.

Utilizing the Great Firewall, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda has been implementing various strategies for its international and domestic audiences. While trying to appeal to global audiences by criticizing issues such as racism and colonialism in Western democracies, China has increased its efforts to cultivate far-right nationalism ideologies as a domestic tool to justify its policies in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the lack of basic human rights.

Name and shame

With this “name and shame” tactic, the movement became a tool to fight against extreme nationalism in China and the government’s efforts to promote those messages.

The Great Translation Movement declared a partial victory against CCP propaganda on Twitter, citing signs that various levels of the Chinese government halted and censored their these efforts due to the pressure from the campaign.

The Global Times news outlet called the movement “a cognitive war” against China. The overseas edition of the People’s Daily, the CCP’s official mouthpiece, called the translation activities a smear campaign doomed to fail.

The reactions from the Chinese government indicate the effectiveness of this social media campaign. By revealing the notorious side of China’s state propaganda, the movement became a deterrent to Beijing’s domestic efforts.

With this 'name and shame' tactic, the movement became a tool to fight against extreme nationalism in China and the government's propaganda efforts to promote those messages.
With this ‘name and shame’ tactic, the movement became a tool to fight against extreme nationalism in China and the government’s propaganda efforts to promote those messages. (Image: via Pixabay)

Significant challenges to Beijing’s propaganda efforts

Compared to Beijing’s propaganda mechanisms, The Great Translation Movement had limited resources and an impact on international politics. But this decentralized social media campaign has created significant challenges to the state-sponsored efforts supported by billions of dollars.

Once relying on isolation, disinformation, and information gaps, CCP propaganda faces further challenges, as their messages and efforts now become embarrassments on international social media platforms.

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