China put pressure on EU to soften coronavirus disinformation report

China put pressure on EU to soften coronavirus disinformation report

Most strikingly, references to China running a “global disinformation” campaign and Chinese criticism of France’s reaction to the pandemic were erased.

“Official and state-backed sources from various governments, including Russia and — to a lesser extent — China, have continued to widely target conspiracy narratives and disinformation,” read the final version.

One EU official said the Chinese mission to the EU had protested about the report through several diplomatic channels.

The New York Times reported Friday about the Chinese pressure, citing an EU diplomat who wrote to colleagues that “the Chinese [were] threatening with reactions if the report comes out.”

The NYT article also quoted an email from a senior adviser to the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who ordered the report be held back and “asked analysts to differentiate between pushing disinformation and aggressively pushing a narrative.” An EU official who disagreed with the changes was quoted saying that the bloc’s diplomats were “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party.”

One of the people POLITICO spoke with confirmed the pressure mentioned in the New York Times.

Peter Stano, a spokesperson for the European External Action Service, said Saturday that “the publications of the EEAS are categorically independent. We have never bowed to any alleged external political pressure. This includes also our latest snapshot overview on disinfo trends.”

He said the New York Times article makes “ungrounded, inaccurate allegations and contains factually incorrect conclusions about the EEAS’ report,” adding that “disinformation and harmful narratives can bear severe potential risks to our citizens, including to their health.”

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