Hong Kong: It might be Russia that invaded Ukraine, but China is waging a supportive propaganda war that is surprisingly ferocious. Indeed, when one examines official pronouncements from Beijing and what is being promulgated on the Chinese internet, it becomes obvious that China is in no way neutral.

In fact, the Chinese government has launched a concerted campaign to "educate" students on the merits of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. As an example, provincial governments have mandated that university teachers attend collective "lectures correcting one's thoughts on the Russia-Ukraine situation".

Consequently, for instance, a photo on the website of Daqing Normal University showed teachers attending such a study session on the "Ukraine situation", keeping in mind that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) refuses to call it an invasion or even a war.

The specific aims of the session were as follows: to give teachers a strong and correct political position; deploy new ways of thinking and a broader perspective [ironically, this contradicts the first point]; and encourage strict self-discipline and to center moral compasses [which contradicts the preceding point].

The correct political position, according to the CCP, is that Russian military action is legitimate and that NATO, the USA and Ukraine are at fault. Alarmingly, even school-age students were being told what to believe. Slides from such a lesson, entitled "Why did Russia send troops to Ukraine?" were posted on the Chinese internet. The tutorial listed four key points, which align with both the Russian and Chinese slant on the Ukraine war.

The first point is that Ukraine is corrupt, full of ethnic division, has slaughtered Russian-speaking minorities, hates Russia and plans to build weapons of mass destruction and join NATO. Secondly, NATO's eastward expansion has squeezed Russia's strategic space, thus forcing Moscow to act.

Thirdly, the USA is the main culprit because it supplies weapons to Ukraine, is sowing division in Europe and is provoking Russia. The final teaching point is that Russia has exhausted all diplomatic efforts, and eventually Putin was forced to pre-emptively punch first to avoid being punched by 100 fists.

Similarly, a newsletter from the School of Marxism at Qingdao University noted that the entire faculty was required to undertake tutorials on the Ukraine war. It was described as an opportunity to help students be more loyal to the CCP and to be more patriotic. It stated, without any trace of irony, that, "When analysing the situation, it's important to cultivate critical thinking skills of students, their ability to recognize wrong opinions, rumours, disinformation, to help their growth as moral human beings."

Of course, "disinformation" simply refers to any information at odds with the party line. Veracity of information has nothing to do with it, but only imbibing what the CCP decrees is helpful to creating automatons who do not question officialdom. Even primary schools are getting in on the act, as evinced by a Shandong school WeChat account that discussed the same kind of "education" for students.

Interestingly, documentation and notices of such tutorials that were viewable on Chinese social media were suddenly deleted when officials realized that the extent of the CCP's nationwide "education campaign" was being exposed.

Beijing insists that its position on the Russian invasion is objective and fair. However, the fact that the Chinese government feels the desperate need to indoctrinate students with direct facsimiles of Russian propaganda and disinformation shows the real truth of the matter.

The CCP is extremely subjective on this issue, and is defending Russia at all costs. This is logical when one considers that Chairman Xi Jinping issued a ground breaking joint statement in February that claimed the bilateral relationship had "no limits".

However, not all are drinking freely from the fount of CCP propaganda. The notes of one lecturer at a study session seen online disclosed the following: "War in stalemate. Russia has advantages in numbers, but lacking in science and tech. High-tech weaponry can't compete with the West; underestimated Ukrainian will to resist, and solidarity of US and Europe to impose sanctions."

Such views certainly do not reflect the "strong and correct political position" of the CCP! Unfortunately, officials in China's Foreign Ministry continue to merrily spread misinformation, such as the conspiracy theory that Moderna created COVID-19. One culprit disseminating this fake news is Li Yang, a counsellor in the ministry's Department of Information and a former consul general in Brazil. He also tweeted ridiculous theories about Putin's invasion like, "The key point is, the US needs this war! That's why we see this war now!!!"

Clearly, "wolf warrior diplomacy" is alive and well in China, and deflecting criticism from Russia onto the USA is a key aim of Xi's diehard defence of Putin. As another example of China's propaganda war, the authorities continue to peddle the biological-warfare angle, a view originally pushed by Russia. For example, in a 24 March press conference, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defence, implied US culpability for biological weaponization in Ukraine.

He insinuated: "The US conducts more biological militarization activities than any other country in the world. It has 336 biological labs in 30 countries around the world ... Public disclosures say dozens of biological labs in Ukraine are in operation in accordance with the orders from the US Department of Defence. The above-mentioned activities of the US are extremely opaque and pose great security risks."

Wu asked five questions: "We have to ask, what is the real intention of the US side in conducting these projects? Why hasn't the US released details of these projects? What is the relationship between the US overseas biological labs and the US Department of Defence? If the US labs in Ukraine are only engaged in scientific research and disease monitoring, why has the US Department of Defence got deeply involved in it? And what is the reason behind the consistent blocking by the US alone of the establishment of a multilateral verification mechanism under the Biological Weapons Convention over the past 20 years?"

Wu, and his political masters, are simply echoing Russian talking points designed to muddy the waters. As clearly stated by the US Embassy and elsewhere, the US Department of Defence has been helping Ukraine's Ministry of Health since 2005 to improve public-health laboratories. The USA is not the only supporter, for the EU and WHO performed similar work.

Although such nefarious suggestions are demonstrably false, citizens in places like China and Russia cannot access sources to confirm this. Of course, this is why China so tightly controls the internet, for it must restrict the flow of information to only things that strengthen the CCP's position at the top of the pile.

An example of this can be seen on the back of Foreign Minister Wang Yi's surprise appearance in Delhi. On the Chinese internet, key opinion leaders were trying to convey the message that China has resumed a close relationship with India.

For example, one hot post on Weibo concerning Wang's visit started as follows, praising Delhi: "India and Russia join forces to boycott the US dollar officially!" It proceeded to discuss the Indian and Russian agreement to put currency swaps in place to bypass the US-led sanctions regime.

The post continued: "Russian investment in Indian corporate bonds, and Russia-India comprehensive deepening of economic cooperation and currency interoperability, is the most powerful support of India to the Russian economy. Russia and India resolutely implement the timely era of dropping the US dollar."

The post, which had attracted more than 2,100 "likes" by 28 March, added: "With India's population of 1.4 billion people, it can have a significant impact on the world economy. With the help of India, a super-consuming country, and the support of friendly trading countries such as China, the Russian economy will be presented in a new light." Such sentiments reflect China's desire to publicly prop up Putin.

The post attracted comments such as, "Excellent job by Sange [a Chinese nickname for India]! Support you!" Another enthused, "The Sange is even braver than the rabbit [a nickname for China used by netizens]", and yet one more said, "Sange have a clever mind in doing great things."

It also attracted other comments such as, "US supremacy is now over, a multi-domain world is forming" or, "If half of the world population is supporting Russia, Russia will not collapse." As can be seen, there is widespread support for Russia among Chinese netizens, something nurtured by the CCP. Chinese social media sites such as Weibo and Zhihu have less coverage on Sino-Indian border tensions these days, nearly two years after violence erupted in Eastern Ladakh.

Instead, India seems to be gaining support for its refusal to buy into Western sanctions against Russia. Another Weibo post thus mused: "It's been almost a month since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the most surprising thing in the international court of public opinion is India's stance. India, from top to bottom, more than just supports Russia. They are even speaking up for China and Pakistan."

This attracted the following comment: "Although Sange have done various disgusting operations on the border, and other issues are really hateful, but under Chairman Mao's theory of the three worlds, our biggest enemy at this stage is still developed Western countries (including Japan and South Korea) who are jumping the most in this Russia-Ukraine conflict. They hold most of the strategic resources and technology on the planet, and suppress other less-developed countries. India, etc. are the objects of solidarity (but need skills)."

Yet another Chinese netizen recorded: "Solidarity with an underdeveloped country like India, which has been enticed against China by the West, also requires skill (unity through struggle will survive, unity through compromise will perish), and I think China is currently handling its relations with India according to this general principle. As described in Liu Cixin's Full Band Blocking Interference [a popular Chinese novel], when a war for the right to pursue development breaks out, the class status of the country will determine who to align with..."

Wang was in Pakistan as a guest of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation conclave, before he stopped over in Afghanistan, then India and Nepal. China has not yet officially recognized the Taliban government of Afghanistan, but Wang's trip to Kabul expresses Beijing's willingness to engage with it. Given that Wang said China "respects the independent choices made by the Afghan people," "respects the religious beliefs and national customs of Afghanistan," and "never interfered in Afghanistan's internal affairs" hints that formal recognition is only a matter of time.

Rather than criticize the Taliban for its abhorrent human rights record, Wang praised the "tangible results" being achieved in Afghanistan, just a day after the Taliban backtracked on a promise to allow girls older than grade six to return to school.

China's political support was certainly appreciated by the Taliban, with acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi saying it was "the most important high-level delegation received by Afghanistan" and that the country was ready to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.

With China hugely concerned about security threats from Islamic extremists, Khan assured Wang that his country would be "highly vigilant against the resurgence of terrorism, and will take resolute and effective measures to eliminate terrorist forces in Afghanistan with all-out efforts. The Afghan Taliban fully understands China's concerns, and will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to Chinese friends".

However, this remains farfetched, as foreign fighters were the Taliban's closest allies when it was fighting the US-led coalition.

Next week, China will host a foreign ministers' meeting in Beijing, which will include Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Having Lavrov there is good for Russia, seeing that it faces pariah status in much of the world, plus it is a clear sign of Chinese support for Russia. After all, Wang Yi has already affirmed that the Russia-China partnership will grow, 'however precarious and challenging the international situation may be'.