According to a recent report from the French military’s think tank, Beijing employs a variety of tactics, including the acquisition of foreign media, the training of reporters, the gifting and equipment, diplomatic pressure, visa intimidation, and telephone intimidation, to reshape the overseas communications landscape according to their ambitions.
Exploit humanism of American and Western
Based on the information, public research reports, and independent interviews, a 650-page study shows that Beijing uses Western openness to amplify its propaganda. As a result, it has become a prime factor in the regime’s global expansion.
Exploiting the tolerance values characterizing Western democracies, Beijing now has “substantial freedom of action,” allowing it to expand overseas representation offices and recruit foreign journalists. So they set out to tailor their messages to different audiences.
According to the French report, Xinhua’s local journalists had “the sole task of translating articles previously written by Chinese staff.” A French reporter for Xinhua News Agency told the author of a 2018 report that Xinhua news articles were 80 percent English and 20 percent Chinese.
According to the Xinhua reporter, translations and original articles will be proofread on occasion by a Chinese journalist fluent in French and following “the Party’s expectations and news priorities.”
Bribing both large and small newspapers
According to the report, Beijing has infiltrated the local press with numerous gifts and other material benefits and has spent billions of dollars on advertising in Western media to broaden its reach.
The CCP-controlled China Daily invests millions of dollars in distributing its content through some of the world’s most influential news outlets. For example, China Daily paid nearly $19 million to U.S. newspapers between Nov. 2016 and April 2020 to insert their free supplement China Watch.
According to the authors, this collaboration has three benefits. First, it not only assists Chinese media in reaching their target audiences, but it also makes them appear more trustworthy and makes their media partners more financially dependent on them.
Until last April, the British newspaper The Telegraph received approximately $1 million per year to distribute (publish) China Watch news.
The Royal United Services Institute, a British defense and security think tank, released its annual report in 2019. According to its yearly analysis, The Telegraph published at least 20 articles signed by the Chinese ambassador to the UK between 2016 and 2018, more than double the amount posted by the Daily Mail, The Guardian, and the Financial Times.
Opposing viewpoints attacked and threatened
Reporter Azad Essa of South Africa saw his weekly column in the Independent Media canceled. Independent Media is the country’s second-largest media group. His column was canceled mere hours after it was published in Sept. 2018. It contained content condemning the oppression of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region. According to reports, two Chinese companies supported or controlled by Beijing own a 20% share in Independent Media.
The EpochTimes’ Hong Kong newsroom has been vandalized several times since its inception, with detractors claiming that the damage results from Beijing’s intimidation methods to stifle independent news organizations.
According to a September research by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, Chinese-language media organizations in Australia have chosen to actively self-censor in fear of punishment.
“Politically sensitive themes, such as criticism of the Chinese regime, would endanger our staff or their families.” “We don’t want them or their relatives detained in China,” one media outlet’s owner told the think tank.
Beijing’s motivation for spending money to influence world media
Efforts by Beijing to export news have spanned decades. In 1981, the CCP launched China Daily, the first English-language newspaper under its control. According to Reporters Without Borders, however, such attempts have been sloppy and have generated delayed results.
The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing provided an opportunity for the regime to demonstrate its economic success. But protests erupted in dozens of towns throughout the world, intending to stop the Olympic torch relay.
According to the Institute for Strategic Studies of Military Schools (IRSEM), a think tank supported by the Armed Forces Command, the CCP has devised a “ten-year plan” to control Beijing’s image better abroad after they felt the humiliation of widespread resistance.
Xi’s ascension signaled the start of a new era for some Xinhua reporters, with Chinese media “no longer having to feel ashamed of being CCP media,” a Xinhua reporter told a report author in 2018.
What did CCP get
According to the report, there were around eight major state-owned English-language media channels in China from Jan. 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, with an average growth rate of 37.8%, which is about 5,000 times that of mainstream U.S. media. But their level of engagement is 68 times lower.
According to bidding records for 2018 and 2019, these overseas agencies paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to grow followers on Twitter and Facebook in what seemed to be a campaign aimed at establishing themselves as news outlets with strong voices.
In 2013, China’s state-run media launched English-language and other local-language news pages on Facebook. With four major news sites, including China Global Television CCTV, China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and People’s Daily, it dominates the world’s media in terms of followers eight years later.
The social media accounts of these newspapers had between 86 million and 116 million followers when the French report was published, or 2.5 to 3 times more than CNN.
The number of virtual accounts among their followers on Twitter is astounding: Between 5% and 30% of accounts that follow a Twitter user are bots or spam, but the percentage of virtual follower accounts on the four social channels listed above ranges from 34.3 to 38.4 percent. Moreover, the researchers discovered that the number increased to 62.8 percent for their French variants.
These “amazing metrics,” according to the writers, are the product of an intentional endeavor to increase subscriptions using incorrect numbers. The report also mentions these accounts’ “extraordinary growth rates” and “inferior engagement rates.”