Amid the worsening border standoff between Texas and the White House over illegal immigration, disinformation has spread in China that the Lone Star state has officially declared war to secede from the US.
Popular Chinese media outlets have suggested that the events in Texas have led to deep divisions in the US, widening to the point where the unrest has become a concrete reality.
More than 6.3 million migrants have crossed into the U.S. illegally since the start of 2021 — records that have intensified a standoff between President Joe Biden and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. As part of his Operation Lone Star, Mr. Abbott has sought to block or discourage entry into his state, including installing nearly 30 miles of barbed wire barriers throughout the town of Eagle Pass.
Misinformation on Chinese social media
Trending social media posts in China allege that Mr Abbott is preparing to go to war with US federal authorities. Posts with the hashtag TexasDeclaresAStateOfWar were viewed and shared thousands of times on the popular social network Sina Weibo. Some posts were from a user with millions of followers.
According to Wenhao, a Voice of America journalist who specializes in Chinese online misinformation, reported that the “biggest U.S.-related news on China’s internet in recent days is the governor of Texas declaring war on the federal government, which did not happen in reality”.
The Weibo reaction
Weibo appears to have taken steps to limit such content. A search for posts with the hashtag TexasDeclaresAStateOfWar now shows a disclaimer, which reads: “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations and police, content on this topic cannot be displayed.” However, many posts can still be found on the popular platform, which has more than 600 million monthly active users.
Failed fact checks
Because censorship makes it difficult for Chinese users to fact-check, this has left many Weibo users under the impression that the state is at war. Some have suggested that Texas could see a similar situation to Ukraine – which is at war with Russia – noting that the two regions have a similar land mass.
The media message has made the idea of a civil war more credible, as Chinese state media outlets have regularly suggested that political divisions in the US are now so polarized that the country has reached the brink of internal conflict.
The term “civil war” has been used repeatedly in Chinese newspapers since the Capitol Hill riot in January 2021. Although foreign media is largely blocked in China, foreign media content is often chosen to provoke suggestions of internal U.S. divisions. .
The manipulation of information and the dissemination of fake news are strategies constantly used in geopolitical disputes. In this current scenario between the US and China, the spread of false information in China about the internal political situation in Texas is a sample of this.
The use of a civil war in the USA as disinformation could be a response strategy by the Chinese government to the constant criticism that China receives from Western governments regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.