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Insight: News analysis on Ukraine-Russia conflict finds differences in US and Chinese media perceptions

SINGAPORE — CARMA Asia conducted an in-depth media analysis to better understand the perceptions of two leading powers – China and the United States of America – and their stance on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Using qualitative media analysis, news articles reported by US and Chinese media outlets on the first day of military action were analyzed.

The data revealed a marked difference in each country’s perception and viewpoint. 70% of Chinese news conveyed that China has no clear position on the conflict, while US media outlets focused on sanctions and leadership four times more than Chinese media. Other key findings from the research include:

Media perception and viewpoint

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  • US media outlets were far more likely to criticize Russia than the Chinese media (56% vs 12%).
  • Chinese media reported from a neutral stance, with “military action” being the most common description of the conflict (40% of coverage). In contrast, US media outlets described it as an “invasion” (88% of articles), whereas this term was only seen in 10% of Chinese coverage.
  • Images of Ukraine were the most frequently used images. Photos from Ukraine featured in 30% of coverage from both US and Chinese media outlets.

News angles of the coverage

  • Chinese media outlets primarily focused news coverage on the impact of people in Ukraine and the political implications.
  • US media coverage was primarily centered on the leadership styles of both Ukraine and Russia’s leaders and the introduction of sanctions.

Leadership

  • US media outlets were far more likely to criticize Putin than Chinese media (50% vs 2%).
  • US coverage quoted Biden and Putin extensively, while President Zelenskyy was the leading spokesperson to be quoted in Chinese media.
  • Putin was often quoted in US outlets as a way to validate Biden’s position, as these quotes frequently framed Putin as the aggressor.

CARMA Asia utilized qualitative content analysis through the CARMA monitoring system in order to examine the differences between the way US media and Chinese media outlets reported on the first day of conflict in Ukraine. Articles from mainstream online news sites with national and/or high audience reach were selected from both markets. A research matrix was designed to track the topics, news angles, images and messages that were reported by news on the first day of military action. The media articles were analyzed according to the research matrix. Coding was completed by expert analysts coding in English and Mandarin. The data provided is a percentage of the total volume for that market.

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