Chinese vlogger living in Odesa confronts China's powerful propaganda machine

21 March, 03:21 PM
Jixian Wang, a 36-year-old Chinese software engineer. (Photo:Jixian Wang / Youtube)

Jixian Wang, a 36-year-old Chinese software engineer. (Photo:Jixian Wang / Youtube)

Jixian Wang, a 36-year-old Chinese software engineer, living in Odesa, never thought that he would someday be labeled an enemy of his people. However, he has had to pay this price for trying to tell the truth about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Jixian Wang has become one of the few sources of accurate information about the war in China. From the very beginning, he refuted the position of Chinese propaganda that Ukraine was the aggressor and had provoked the conflict.

“I was very angry, then I thought I would record videos for them, and I’ll tell them what the real battlefield is like,” Jixian Wang told CNN.

Video of day

The war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for nearly a month. The whole world is providing assistance to the Ukrainian people - European countries and the United States are actively supporting Ukraine not only with weapons, but also with money, humanitarian aid, and sanctions, which are slowly but surely destroying the Russian economy.

For a long time, China tried to stay aloof from this war - at least they tried to make the world think that.

Inside China’s propaganda bubble, however, the situation was completely different. State media outlets supported Russian rhetoric about “a special operation”, spread false news about the existence of Ukrainian “biological weapon” laboratories, and in every possible way imposed a pro-Russian agenda on their audience.

The Douyin app, the Chinese version of TikTok, was full of videos praising the Russian military and stories about Ukrainian “Nazism”.

In response, the 36-year-old software engineer started to record several videos daily on Youtube, simultaneously releasing them on the Chinese messaging app WeChat, and he soon gained some popularity as one of the few voices that opposes Chinese-echoed Russian propaganda.

In one of his most popular videos, Wang shows his Chinese passport and explains that “these Ukrainian guards are not Nazis, they are IT programmers, common people, barbers - these are the people.”

Jixian Wang moved to Odesa four years ago and fell in love with the “artistic atmosphere” he had found in the city. But while his earlier content features beautiful videos about civilian life, now they are only about the war.

“Are those air raid alarms? Those bastards are coming again,” he says in one of them.

However, his popularity and his attempts to show the truth despite the rhetoric of China’s propaganda comes at a price.

“You don’t need this Chinese passport anymore, you have already forgotten which country you are from,” one popular comment on one of the videos on Douyin read.

“The official position of the country should be the position of all Chinese people.”

And there are more and more messages like this. Jixian Wang does not understand how he has “betrayed” his country. He explained that he is simply trying to show what is happening around him, especially since he now has limited access to Chinese news and propaganda.

Anonymous comments do not really bother him. However, sometimes he has to face aggression from acquaintances.

Recently, a staff member at the Chinese embassy in North Macedonia, where Jixian Wang used to live, claimed that Jixian Wang was being paid to post his videos.

When the vlogger objected that he was not receiving any money, the embassy staffer replied: “Your current behavior is not in line with national interests,” and threatened to cut off all relation, while blocking him on social networks.

“That really hurt my heart,” Wang said.

Then Chinese censors drew attention to his videos. Some of the videos were blocked on WeChat, and almost all the videos he recorded during the war disappeared from Douyin. After a while, the vlogger's accounts were blocked on all Chinese social networks, making impossible for him to contact his family.

He also said that he began to receive more and more messages from acquaintances who demanded that he stop posting videos.

However, he plans to continue doing so: “I want to provide some voice for the people in Ukraine, for the heroes, for my neighbors. Because in my eyes they are all heroes. I see people being calm, I see people being brave.”

Recently, more and more Chinese comments have appeared under his video, which do not wish harm to Wang, and also express their support for Ukraine. The vlogger himself at the same time helps to repair mobile phones and performs other volunteer work. The victory of Ukraine and his participation in it became a matter of principle, he explains.

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“If I turned back and left, it would be enough to make me regret for the rest of my life. I have no interest or desire to leave Ukraine until the war is ended and Ukraine has won.”

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