Chinese Blogger Challenges Beijing’s Version of the War in Ukraine


In the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Wang Jixian often starts his days by recording the sirens howling warnings to residents against Russian air attacks. It’s part of his own battle against the skewed, euphemistic depiction of the war propagated by Moscow’s crucial partner, China.

Mr. Wang, a Chinese computer programmer who moved to Odessa for work last year, has become one of the boldest voices challenging the Chinese state-controlled media’s version of the war, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers. Chinese television has glossed over the bloodshed caused by Russian forces and pointedly avoided calling President Vladimir V. Putin’s actions an invasion.

In video dispatches from his apartment or the streets, Mr. Wang has shifted between bleak and wryly matter-of-fact when describing life in wartime.

“That fearless neighbor is out walking his dog again,” he says in one. But he exudes fury when discussing Chinese nationalists who see Mr. Putin as a hero, justified in attacking Ukraine.

“Since last night, the air raid alarms have sounded at least three times, and the church bells rang out more than that,” he said near the start of one recent broadcast. He then turned his camera on himself.

“Why are you afraid of people finding out the truth?” he said. “Why can only those voices cheering on this bloody path be spread?” he continued. “Some people tell me that nowadays it’s a society where the strong devour the weak, where power comes from the barrel of a gun. Who said that? Where is the sense in that?”

In a phone interview, Mr. Wang, 36, said that he had been inundated with messages from Chinese viewers.

He puts his videos on YouTube, which people in China can view only with software to burrow past censorship, as well as on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media service, although censors have restricted his most impassioned pieces there. His WeChat video channel has attracted more than 94,000 subscribers.

Some viewers express thanks for puncturing the propaganda. But plenty of messages come from fervent Chinese nationalists calling him a traitor or, as Mr. Wang put it, “words that can’t be quoted by newspapers.”

Still, Mr. Wang said, some people appear to have been swayed by his work.

“At the start, it felt like everyone was supporting the Russians,” he said. “But now I feel like I’ve used my little bit of influence to awaken at least some Chinese people and get them thinking for themselves.”

He said he had no intention of leaving Odessa unless survival became impossible. If it came to that, he said, “I’ll move — to another city in Ukraine.”

Joy Dong and Liu Yi contributed reporting and research.


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