China lets ruble tumble against yuan as its media reinforces Russian claims about biological weapons in Ukraine

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      The response of China to Russia's invasion of Ukraine is drawing increasing attention in the West.

      On the one hand, President Xi Jinping is not making public statements internationally in support of Russian president Vladimir Putin's war of aggression.

      Yet at home, China's media continues to repeat claims by Russia that have been dismissed in the West.

      This includes an unproven Russian allegation that Ukraine was developing biological weapons before Moscow's "special military operation", as Putin likes to call it.

      This week, Xi called for "maximum restraint", noting that he's "pained to see the flames of war reignited in Europe".

      China abstained, rather than oppose, a recent motion at the UN condemning Russia's attack. And China is easing exchange-rate controls linking the value of the Russian ruble to the Chinese yuan.

      This move by the China Foreign Exchange Trade System means that the ruble can fall faster—up to 10 percent per day now—which will likely make Chinese goods more expensive in Russia.

      However, China has also criticized western sanctions on Russia. 

      Russia is China's second-largest supplier of oil, accounting for 15.5 percent of imports, and third largest supplier of natural-gas, according to the Reuters news agency.

      Allowing the ruble to fall against the yuan has the potential of lowering China's energy costs.

      Media coverage tells a different story

      There's new evidence that Chinese domestic media continues reinforcing Russia's narrative about the war.

      CNN conducted a detailed analysis of 5,000 posts on Weibo by 14 Chinese state media outlets in the first eight days of the war.

      "The analysis found that of the more than 300 most-shared posts about the events in Ukraine—which were each shared more than 1,000 times—almost half, about 140, were what CNN classified as distinctly pro-Russian, often containing information attributed to a Russian official or picked up directly from Russia's state media," CNN reported.

      Chinese state media repeated Russian lies that civilian targets won't be targeted and repeated Russian claims that Ukrainian soldiers behaved like Nazis. Plus, Chinese media reinforced another Russian lie that Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had fled his country, acccording to CNN.

      Another story line in the Chinese state media, which came straight from the Russian government, is that Ukraine is developing biological weapons at the behest of the United States.

      White House press secretary Jen Psaki has labelled these claims as "preposterous".

      On Twitter, Psaki expressed concerns that Russia might cite these claims to justify its own use of biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine.

      Psaki made no mention in this Twitter thread about how a former U.S. administration headed by George W. Bush made false allegations that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was developing chemical and biological weapons. This was used to justify the 2003 U.S.-led attack on Iraq, which inflicted devastating long-term damage on that country.

      To date, an estimated 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia launched its attack on February 24. On March 8, the UN High Commission for Refugees reported that there have been 1,506 civilian casualties—549 killed and 957 injured—since the war began.