Still, the most effective way for the Chinese embassy to get its message on the pandemic across, included neither the abuse of Slovak media nor the Embassy's social media presence. The biggest reach of the propaganda came by getting local political proxies to spread Chinese talking points. This has been recognised
in the past as one of China's key tools to influence foreign perception of China.
The most notorious China proxy in Slovakia is Ľuboš Blaha, an MP for the social democrats and a self-proclaimed Marxist, who is known for regularly engaging in virulent anti-EU and anti-NATO rhetoric.
Blaha's Facebook posts (here
) about China's mask diplomacy, in which he juxtaposed supplies of masks and other protective equipment from China with the purported lack of aid from the EU and America. Blaha regularly described the supplies as "aid" even though a substantial majority of the supplies were of a commercial nature.
He also peddled
the idea that there is a possibility that the virus originated in the USA and was deployed against China as a biological weapon.
Unlike the Embassy's own social media posts, propaganda and disinformation posted by Blaha had a wide reach. The post
about the possible origin of the virus in the USA was liked by 2.8 thousand people and shared 970 times – a high amount by Slovak standards. Moreover the post was shared also by pages promoting neo-nazi content, pro-Russian propaganda, and anti-liberal messages. Together, they boasted over 5,000 interactions and almost 100,000 followers.
One of the posts
on "Chinese aid", titled "When all the bad Communists are suddenly helping Europe," was even more successful – it was liked 5.5 thousand times and shared 1.8 thousand times. Through a network of like-minded Facebook pages and groups (collectively boasting almost 140,000 followers) that shared the post, 8.5 thousand people interacted with it.
The list of Facebook pages and groups demonstrates growing alignment between pro-Chinese and pro-Russian channels for spreading disinformation and propaganda. Growing synergies
between the two countries hybrid warfare tactics in Europe is a trend that has been accelerating
in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.