The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seems to be leaving no stone unturned in utilizing all levers of influence to secure and consolidate its global position. Recognizing media as an important tool for asserting power and enhancing its narrative in international discourse, China is bankrolling scholars, journalists and experts abroad, censoring domestic media while keeping a tab on Chinese Diaspora abroad. At the same time, efforts are being made to co-opt or marginalize independent Chinese Diaspora news outlets and censor critical views on Chinese-owned social media platforms like WeChat so that Chinese Diaspora is denied access to unbiased information about events in China and their host countries relationship with Beijing.
Over 20 organizations are apparently being used by Beijing towards this end. carries out its propaganda work. Besides, social media platforms are actively used for public messaging, such as hijacked/purchased Facebook groups, pages, and accounts, text messaging campaigns, coordinated trolling activities, automated networks to influence Twitter hashtags, content farms etc. There are close to 100 Twitter handles that are carrying out Chinese propaganda and disinformation.
Chinese officials also use intimidation tactics to silence negative reporting in locallanguage media. Recently, Chinese Embassy in Kuwait prevailed upon local authorities to get local English Daily, ‘Arab Times’ to remove an interview of Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu from the virtual platforms. In the interview the Taiwanese Foreign Minister had highlighted the ‘threat China poses to Taiwan and underlined the progress of the USChina relations’. The Chinese Embassy also summoned the editor-in-chief of the daily and interviewer to the Chinese Embassy. The event is illustrative of Chinese Embassy directly intimidating local media to prevent publishing contents that they dislike. In another case, officials of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka met with prominent Tamil media journalists of the country and gave them financial incentives for projecting pro-China narratives in their newspapers.
In order to give wings to its propaganda machinery, Chinese state owned TV broadcaster CGTN has opened production centers in London, Washington and Nairobi with locally hired employees, aimed at producing programmes to disseminate China’s narrative in Europe, America and Africa. On the 100th CCP Anniversary, foreign media in many countries, particularly in Africa, published pro-China articles praising China’s contribution to the cause of human progress.
Governments across the world have begun to realize the threat that CCP influence activities can pose to media freedom, democratic institutions, and even national security. The pushback is more targeted and more intense in Western democracies who have realized that China has exploited their liberal eco system to make deep inroads to influence and shape the narrative that suits CCP. There is a need to increase transparency and reporting requirements for media outlets, scrutinize international censorship and surveillance by Chinese companies, tighten and enforce broadcasting regulations, and support independent Chinese media.