Wednesday, October 27, 2021

‘Secret, corrupt, and coercive’: report details Beijing’s bid to establish new global media order

A recent French military think-tank report found that the Chinese regime is using “secret, corrupt and coercive” weapons to weaponize Chinese-language and Western media in a campaign to impose its current affairs approach on the rest of the world. doing for.

Beijing’s efforts to export its narratives go back decades. According to Reporters Without Borders, the first Chinese Communist Party-controlled English-language newspaper, China Daily, was launched in 1981. But such efforts were clumsy and yielded slow results.

The year 2008 proved to be a turning point. The Olympic Games in Beijing, an event the regime hoped to leverage to demonstrate its economic success, sparked protests in nearly a dozen cities around the world that disrupted the torch relay.

The humiliation that Beijing suffered as a result of the negative coverage stunned the authorities. To better control the regime’s global image, the Communist Party of China (CCP) soon came up with a “10-year plan”, noted in the report of the Institute for Strategic Studies of Military Schools (IRSEM), Which is a think tank funded by the ministry. of the armed forces.

The 650-page study, based on public information, research reports and independent interviews, examined how Beijing is exploiting the openness of the West to amplify its propaganda narratives, a component of the regime’s massive influence operations globally .

The values ​​of tolerance that characterize Western democracies have given Beijing “considerable freedom of movement”, allowing it to multiply its foreign offices, recruiting foreign journalists to adapt its messages to different audiences, One could infiltrate the local press with gifts and other material benefits, while distributing billions. of advertising dollars to further expand its reach on Western media, the report said.

In China, the press has become a tool to serve the party under Beijing, rather than a watchdog to keep the government under control, the report said. Such a vision was made clear in a 2016 speech by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, during which he asked nearly 180 state media representatives to align their ideology with those of top officials, “speak for the will of the party.” .. and protect the right of the party,” according to a Xinhua readout.

For some Xinhua journalists, Xi’s rise to power marked the beginning of a new era in which the Chinese media “no longer need to be ashamed to be communist media,” a Xinhua reporter told the report writers in 2018. Told one of

buying effect

The Chinese state media is active on all social media networks with a large influence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram – all of which are blocked in China.

Chinese state media set up English and regional language pages on Facebook in 2013. Eight years later, they are at the top of the world’s media in terms of following, with four major outlets—CGTN, China Daily, Xinhua and People’s Daily—among 86. Million to 116 million followers each, or about 2.5 to 3 times more than CNN’s at the time of the French report’s publication.

CGTN Logo
The CGTN logo is displayed on a computer monitor on February 4, 2021 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

These “superb scores” have been the result of a deliberate attempt to artificially inflate customer numbers, the authors said, pointing to the “extraordinary growth rate” and “extremely low conversation rate” these accounts receive.

According to the report, the average growth rate of about eight major Chinese state media in English is 37.8 percent in the period January 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, or nearly 5,000 times higher than that of US mainstream media, but their level of engagement The number is 68 times less.

Tender documents from 2018 and 2019 show that state-run outlets are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain followers on Twitter and Facebook, in what appears to be a campaign to establish itself as the official news voice. Is.

Sarah Cook, a China analyst with human rights watchdog Freedom House, told The Epoch Times at the time, “When … you see millions of people following you, you think it’s pretty credible.” He described it as a “new frontier”, which is “an opportunity to reach the masses at the grassroots level in society and in other countries”.

The proportion of fake accounts among their Twitter followers is hard to ignore: for an average Twitter user, 5 to 30 percent of the accounts they follow are bots or spam; But the fake account ratio for the above four media ranges from 34.3 percent to 38.4 percent. The researchers found that for their French versions, the number jumps to 62.8 percent.

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The CCP-controlled China Daily is at the same time pouring millions of dollars into distributing its content through some of the most influential publications around the world. Between November 2016 and April 2020, China Daily paid US newspapers approximately 1.9 million to include its free supplement called China Watch.

The authors said that collaboration has a threefold benefit. Not only does it help Chinese media reach their target audience, it makes them more credible, and gives them a financial advantage over their fellow media.

British newspaper The Telegraph, which as of April last year was receiving around £750,000 (about $1 million) per year for distributing China Watch, reported at least 20 signed articles by the Chinese ambassador to the UK between 2016 and 2018. Also published – double the number, according to a 2019 study published on the Royal United Services Institute, a British defense and security think tank, jointly published by the Daily Mail, The Guardian and the Financial Times.

A new global media order

The US State Department has designated entities of a total of 15 Chinese state-run outlets located in the country as foreign missions because they are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign government, a department spokesman said in September. I told The Epoch Times.

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A newspaper consumer reads a copy of the China Africa edition of his daily newspaper in front of a news stand in the Kenyan capital on December 14, 2012. (Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images)

The French report states that in the case of the state-run Xinhua news agency, its local journalists have “the sole mission of translating dispatches previously written by Chinese employees”. A French journalist for Xinhua told a report writer in 2018 that his Xinhua dispatch consisted of 80 percent translations from English and 20 percent from Chinese. Translations and occasional originals will all be proofread by a Chinese journalist who is fluent in French and is “in line with the party’s expectations of ‘favourite stories’,” according to the Xinhua Reporter.

Former staff members of pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao have told similar stories to The Epoch Times after the publication registered five of its US entities as foreign agents by the publication under Justice Department orders in August.

David, a former senior editor at Sing Tao’s New York office, said he was briefed on “two principles” on his first day: no reporting of news on Falun Gong, a spiritual group persecuted by Beijing, nor Taiwan’s independence. Another, who had worked for the outlet’s San Francisco office years earlier, said she had been told not to use the term CCP – the acronym for the Communist Party of China – nor “Republic of China”, Taiwan. The official name for the self-governing island of. on which the government lays its claim. Instead, it had to use the terms “China” and “Taiwan province of the People’s Republic of China” respectively, she told The Epoch Times.

According to the report, acquiring foreign media, training journalists, donating gifts and equipment, applying diplomatic pressure, using visa blackmail, leveling threats via phone calls to Beijing to succumb to its will It is one of the few other tactics deployed to reshape the media landscape overseas.

In South Africa, journalist Azad Essa canceled his weekly column from Independent Media, the country’s second largest media group, hours after the publication of his September 2018 story condemning the persecution of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region. The media group is owned 20 percent by two Chinese entities backed or controlled by Beijing.

Yug Times Photos
Yug Times Photos
Damaged computers and construction debris on the floor of the printing press of The Epoch Times Hong Kong edition on April 12, 2021 in Hong Kong, China. (Adrian Yu/The Epoch Times)

The Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times has been subject to a string of vandalism since its inception, which critics have said is a hallmark of the regime’s bullying tactics to silence independent reporting.

Fearing retaliation, Chinese-language media groups in Australia have chosen to actively self-censor, according to a September study by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute.

“A politically sensitive topic or criticism against the Chinese government would put our staff members or their families at risk. We do not want them or their families to be detained in China,” a media proprietor told the think tank.

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Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times, focusing on US-China, religious freedom and human rights.

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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