China’s Propaganda Strategy Overseas

by    /  May 26, 2017  / Comments Off on China’s Propaganda Strategy Overseas

The hands of Chinese propaganda have stretched out across the world. Image via the author.

China’s aggressive media strategy has expanded across the border and invaded the overseas market. People in New York are getting used to seeing diverse advertisements from China- the beautiful city of Hangzhou is welcoming you for a visit, a pretty woman is showing you a new car model‭, ‬or, with just the two big Chinese characters zhongguo, “China” is overwhelmingly looking at you from the sky. Analyst Burton Wides pointed out at a conference at American University on March 29, “China applies all effort, especially economic strength, to infiltrate the information on China what we American should see, hear and read.” So when China’s News Agency’s logo appears on a big poster in the middle of Times Square, no one pays special attention to it. The poster belongs to the normal street scenery. But actually, when the government’s intention disguised as commercial activity appears in Western public places, that is not common business as usual. It’s a pity, and it is alarming that it does not awake any suspicion, or even unease. The consciousness of common people is easily undermined through sophisticated camouflage. Who cares that the Beijing government has bought an electric ad-board to post 24-hour images, which it wants the American people to see and implant into their brains? Long live the capitalism! With money you can buy almost anything in the USA.

  1. Blind Chess, a column by Tienchi Martin-Liao
  2. During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison til 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
  3. Tienchi Martin-Liao
  4. Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners, and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

According to a Princeton-based economic scholar, Mrs. He Qinglian, the official Chinese “propaganda policy overseas” (da wai xuan) has been intensified since 2008. The Party organ, People’s Daily, affiliated with the English version of Global Times ,was founded in April 20, 2009. This became the second English newspaper in China besides China Daily. Beijing offered a high salary to build up the Global Times’ staff. It chose over 60 English speaking journalists and editors as well as 10 specialists and 5 managers among the foreign correspondents, providing them with attractive money and working conditions. The staff never has to worry about the financial problems of their newspaper, because the Chinese Communist Party will back it up.

The guideline of the propaganda policy overseas is based on the principal of localization– adapt to the local thinking pattern, satisfy the information need of the targeted group and provide readers with rich information on the progress and development in China. All in all, this serves to induce a positive image of China as a trustworthy, strong country. Besides the ad and print media, CCTV and CGTN as well as 33 broadcasting networks are being launched on four continents in 14 countries, according to Reuter’s investigation. They air China-friendly news across the US capital and throughout the whole world.

As for the 45 million Chinese overseas, Beijing also prepared the “proper” reading materials for them. Their tactics go in three directions: financing the global Chinese language media, building up Chinese schools and funding Chinese societies and organizations. With these three institutions, patriotic and pro-China atmosphere and forces can be rooted deeply worldwide. Today, most Chinese newspapers and magazines located overseas have a China-friendly stance. It is difficult to get critical articles published. Beijing held regular conferences inviting the publishers, editors and writers to go back China in order to show them the progress and prosperity of the motherland. The “United Front Work” (tongzhan) has been CCP’s oldest strategy: power and money work like a magnet. Many once oppositional and critical persons are now joining into the Front. They have given up the independent position and become associated patriotic allies of the regime.

Beijing also infiltrates the Chinese media in Western countries. Family members of the employees in the media companies are often targeted by the security police. They are either put under pressure or promised with money or profit, so that they shall persuade their relative to stop writing critical articles about China. For example, this happened to German Broadcasting company Deutsche Welle’s columnist Chang Ping, whose siblings in Sichuan were harassed by the authorities. They were told that they should ask their brother stop to writing anti-China articles. Otherwise they would suffer the unpleasant consequences.

The United States is the main country targeted by the Chinese authority in terms of news control and censorship because this is where most overseas Chinese media is located. US authority is well aware of the situation. Congress held a hearing on May 4 on the topic: China’s Information Controls, Global Media Influence and Cyber Warfare Strategy. They invited specialists, who certified that Beijing has stretched out its hands overseas and even to American media in diverse ways. But could the Chinese media industry, which refuses the universal values of freedom, democracy, and human dignity, and instead propagates the pan-Chinese hegemony, really win the heart of the majority? Can the subtle brainwashing process erode the ground of the free world? No one can answer the question at the moment, but the signs are indeed worrisome.

A Chinese proverb says:“If you have money, you can make the devil push the millstone for you.” The Chinese see this as a maxim— all work hard to earn money. Chinese politicians believe this maxim and apply it in the politics, and now the world has a problem.

About the Author

Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

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