The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Propaganda Department assesses the overall strength and efficacy of the propaganda system, i.e., external and internal today, considering, in particular, the impact of market forces on the media and academia domains. The system remains effective in controlling most of the information that reaches the Chinese public, even with the information revolution and globalisation, China’s Propaganda department closely monitors on contents of China being portrayed to the world as well1.
Propaganda and indoctrination were a hallmark of the Maoist Regime. Mao was a master propagandist and used a variety of “thought control” techniques throughout their regime in China. These techniques included mass mobilisation campaigns; the construction of ‘models’ to be emulated; and creation of institutions that monitored public ideologies; incarceration for the purpose of ‘brainwashing’; and many more2.
The CCP propaganda department (CCPPD) system is a sprawling bureaucratic censorship establishment, extending into virtually every medium concerned with the dissemination of information. As of today, Li Shulei, top-ranked vice president in the CCP’s academy is currently appointed as the “Propaganda Chief” of the party3. The scope of CCP’s propaganda oversight includes: newspaper offices, radio stations, TV, publishing houses, magazines; Universities, schools, and other educational institutions; the Military; Film Industry; and cultural domains, etc.
CCPPD propaganda implementers include, “The CCP Central Propaganda Department”, “The State Council Information Office”, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)”, “The People’s Liberation Army (PLA)”, “Local government departments”, “Mainstream Media”, “State-owned and private enterprises”, and, “Chinese Think Tanks.”4
Censorship is only one side of the coin, the CCPPD regularly engages in ‘proactive’ propaganda — writing and disseminating the information that CCP believes should be transmitted to the world and inculcated in various sectors internally.
In the broader context of the ‘Media Propaganda Domain’ attempts by CCPPD is to censor speech, promote disinformation and seed the internet with its preferred narratives5. A popular medium the CCPPD uses is Youtube which enables their hand- picked “frontier influencers” that push scripted narratives. These influencers are mainly
1 Shambaugh, David. “China’s Propaganda System: Institutions, Processes and Efficacy.” The China Journal, no. 57 (2007): 25–58. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20066240
2 Shambaugh, D. (2007). China’s Propaganda System: Institutions, Processes and Efficacy. The China Journal, 57, 25–
3 “With China’s big political reshuffle looming, new No 2 propaganda chief is appointed from party academy” by Jun Mai at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3180567/chinas-big-political-reshuffle-looming-new-no-2-propaganda 4 “China’s External Propaganda Apparatus Proliferates Internationally” at https://ipcsc.in/chinas-external-propaganda- apparatus-proliferates-internationally/
5 “Frontier influencers: the new face of China’s propaganda” by Fergus Ryan , Daria Impiombato & Hsi-Ting Pai at https://www.aspi.org.au/report/frontier-influencers
China-based ethnic-minority influencers from troubled regions of Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia6.
CCPPD has established media organisations abroad and trained journalists who are active members of the Belt and Road Media Cooperation Alliance/Union, the Belt and Road News Alliance, or other Belt and Road media networks that are connected to China actively promote these narratives in order to change public behaviour and outlook towards the ideology being fed, e.g., Belt and Road Media Community, Belt and Road Journalists Network, Belt and Road News Network, or B&R TV Networks. 7 The top countries targeted by CCPPD’s narratives are Taiwan, Canada, Peru, Australia, Germany, the UK, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Cambodia.
A key propaganda that CCPPD has been dispelling is the Uyghur’s ethnocide and blatant denial of the existence of human rights abuses by trained reporters, journalists or commentators, frontier influencers, and even celebrities.
CCPPD’s Academia branch, i.e., Confucius Institutions (CI) abroad, plays a key role in infiltrating the youth’s minds and feeding scripted narratives. CCPDD has come up with strategies to launch a research-focused “Confucius China Studies Program” also referred to as the “New Confucius Sinology Plan,” which allows systematic cooperation between the CIs and host institutions on the projects of doctoral students, youth leadership, study trips for scholars to “understand China”, international conferences and assistance for publishing research8.
The effect of CCPPD’s academic domain is to alter East Asian history, Modern politics, Chinese politics, etc, to feed their scripted narratives. They are able to establish such a thought-out propaganda blueprint by getting involved in schools or university curriculum course design.
The China Index census collected data on CCPPD-based think tanks and academic research centres that are China-affiliated such as, Silk Road Think Tank Association, Silk Road Think Tank Network [SiLKS], Belt and Road Studies Network, University Alliance of the Silk Road, University Consortium of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road9, that promote scripted ideologies and sway public opinions. These institutions are directly funded by China.
The other way round to get youths abroad to get interested in Chinese studies is by offering Chinese as a foreign language in K12 or primary education and offering free or subsidised educational books and teachers from China. They also host Talent recruitment programs such as, Thousand Talents Program or Changjiang Scholars program10. This is to encourage youths and scholars to take ‘paid’ trips to China.
6 “Frontier influencers: the new face of China’s propaganda” by Fergus Ryan , Daria Impiombato & Hsi-Ting Pai at https://www.aspi.org.au/report/frontier-influencers
8 “Confucius Institutes and the university: distinguishing the political mission from the cultural”, by Christopher R. Hughes, at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/35434291.pdf
The other side to CCPPD’s extensive control in Academic Domain is that scholars or academic youths have been denied visas to travel to China after expressing opinions or producing op-ed articles that are critical of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s image.
Organised PRC-connected student groups like Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSAs) have deliberately attempted to censor staffs and students who put forth opinions on China that do not suit their narratives. These associations were also accused of harassing students protesting human rights abuses in the PRC, or formally complaining about the identification of Taiwan as a country on University Campuses abroad11. In most universities, CCPPD has cultivated a soft power that restricts teachers or professors to address sensitive political issues in China, e.g., Uyghur re-education camps, Taiwan independence, and Tiananmen Square Massacre. And this is how CCPPD monitors and alters narratives as per their political needs.