Narratives of Foreign Media Ecosystems in Chinese Social Media Discussions of the Russo-Ukrainian War


Recommended citation: Hans W. A. Hanley, Yingdan Lu, and Jennifer Pan. "Narratives of Foreign Media Ecosystems in Chinese Social Media Discussions of the Russo-Ukrainian War"

This paper contributes to research on hybrid media and news assemblages by extending the concept of assemblages beyond a single country to a transnational context. In doing so, it highlights the role of international relations on political communication—namely that relations between countries influence censorship policies and, by extension, the configuration of transnational assemblages of online and traditional media that interact to produce foreign affairs news. By comparing narratives about the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War circulating on Chinese social media with narratives found in over 24 million articles from 10,000 Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, and U.S.-based news websites, we find that Russian news websites are the largest originators and influencers of narratives related to the Russo-Ukrainian War found on Weibo, followed closely by Ukrainian news websites and more distantly by Chinese and U.S. news websites. These results have implications for theories of government censorship by challenging prevailing expectations that authoritarian regimes such as China wholly dictate the inflow and construction of foreign news. Finally, this study has implications for the growing body of research on cross-platform communication, extending the conceptualization of cross-platform research to encompass online news domains (in addition to social media platforms) and providing a methodological approach for conducting cross-platform research in transnational, multilingual contexts that build on prior work in this area.