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Chinese Disinformation Targets Slovakia

What is happening?

Following the May 15th assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, the CCP-owned news outlet Global Times spread the narrative that Fico may have been targeted for his Russian sympathies. The outlet uses the attack to portray Europe as a continent of decline and chaos, aiming to foster discontent and disillusionment among its foreign readers. In related news, several high-ranking figures in politics and media recently received the chief editor of the disinformation channel ZEM & VEK, Tibor Rostás, in China. Rostás claimed his visit had received “great support” from Fico.  


What is the broader picture?

In the wake of Fico’s attempted assassination, the CCP-owned news outlet Global Times ran two articles framing the attack in the context of the War in Ukraine. The outlet quoted a Chinese “expert” who alleged that the assassination “might be related to Fico’s pro-Russian stance, or more accurately, his neutral position in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.” Suppose this account turns out to be accurate. In that case, it means “unconventional methods are being used” in the conflict, implying that Ukraine or the West may somehow be involved in plotting the assassination.

The link between the attempted assassination and the War in Ukraine is tenuous at best. As Slovak media point out, Fico’s government did not stop the commercial shipment of arms to Ukraine. Furthermore, it appears the assassin Juraj Cintula only decided to attack Fico after the election of Peter Pellegrini. This would lend credence to the theory that Cintula was motivated by the government’s “liquidation” of the Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS), which the assassin had recently decried on social media.

At the same time as these articles made their rounds, Slovak far-right media figure Tibor Rostás was visiting Beijing. Rostás was previously fined 4000 euros for publishing  an antisemitic article urging Slavic unity, which the highest court in Slovakia considered racially and nationally defamatory. According to Rostás’s media posts, he met with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) and vice-president of the All-China Journalists Association Liu Siyang (劉思揚). The subject of the latter conversation was the planned creation of a large media group, which would see the participation of Russian outlets.


Why does it matter?

Views differ about what role the Global Times fulfills in the Chinese media landscape. While some argue that the Global Times does not speak for the Chinese government, others allege it says what China’s leadership thinks out loud. Its Chinese-language incarnation Huanqiu runs different articles and is less belligerent in tone, implying that the Global Times aims to stir discontent in foreign countries, including Slovakia, by feeding conspiracy theories.

The potential for cooperation between the Slovak disinformation scene and Chinese media is a new development. In the past, numerous Chinese and Russian outlets have signed cooperation agreements, sharing each other’s official narratives. Closer collaboration between China and Slovakia’s far-right media scene may see disinformation flow in both directions between the two countries.