China’s Propaganda Efforts in the US

Beijing, China (NEO) – The intensity and scope of Sino-US relations at the beginning of the twenty-first century have increased significantly and taken more pronounced strategic importance. The rivalry and interdependence between Beijing and Washington have become an important element in the backbone of modern international relations at a regional (in particular in the Asia-Pacific region) and at global levels.

Under these conditions, within the complex of Sino-US relations the role of the propaganda component has substantially increased and the directed information influence has become the most important sphere of political relations between China and the United States, a tool that both countries actively use in relation to each other and the international community as a whole. The information technology boom, the dynamic growth of the global information space brought significant adjustments to the organization and implementation of propaganda both for the US and China, necessitating continuous improvement of this work in view of its importance in the competition between these two countries.

The level of consolidation of Chinese society, reached in the 2000s, has allowed the leadership of the PRC to abandon the previously used primitive methods of Beijing’s foreign and domestic propaganda based on total suppression of alternative voices and ban on information censored by the Chinese authorities. The current system of propaganda work in China can be defined as “controlled openness” and is characterized by, on the one hand, the preservation of centralized control by the Government over the main instruments for shaping public opinion in China and abroad. At the same time, control has ceased to mean the physical elimination of ‘carriers’ of alternative points of view (arrests, exile, classification of information, ban on visits by foreigners in certain areas and activities). Given that the Chinese leadership has not abandoned completely its restrictions on freedom of expression, this approach demonstrates the sufficient maturity, qualification and technical equipment of the Chinese propaganda machine to compete with foreign propaganda and local Chinese dissident circles at least for some areas of information warfare.

China’s propaganda system in recent years has been actively developing various possibilities of mass communication to expand its presence in global information space. And this is not only among developing countries, which have traditionally been the object of special attention of the PRC’s ideological propaganda since the previous century. But it also can be seen that within recent years there has been a strong desire by China to strengthen its position in the global information space, including the United States and Western Europe. The Chinese media is developing in foreign languages ​​and strengthening the Chinese Government’s presence on the Internet, new information technologies are widely used to improve the country’s image abroad, and to counter the effects of anti-Chinese propaganda. The network of Chinese newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, as well as information websites in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese and other languages are intensively expanding. In 2009 Beijing allocated about $6.5 billion for the above work, and the goal was set of increasing the number of foreign bureaus of Xinhua State News Agency up to 186, with the expansion of its activities to satellite and internet TV.

As part of this activity, a special attention has been given by Beijing to actively creating a positive image of China in the eyes of the American public in order to maximize the benefits of propaganda, being an important element of China’s “soft power”, to ignite interest in China in as many ordinary Americans as possible. In this regard, work is being done in several areas.

In collaboration with the American regional publishers in the United States, the English-language Beijing Review Magazine, China Daily Newspaper (a foreign version of the “People’s Daily”) in Chinese and English, and special editions of magazines and books are published.

Since 1996 in The Washington Post Newspaper a China Watch monthly appendix has been published, consisting of eight full-turn pages. It is published as advertising (annual budget of about $ 2.5 million) and publishes analytical materials and news from China in the field of business, society and culture. At the same time, the materials in the appendix place a strong emphasis on economic aspects of cooperation with China, emphasizing “new opportunities”, economic reform, economic development, innovation, and the success achieved by China. The explicit intentions of the authors of this project are that from the headings the reader forms a positive impression of everything that is connected with China. Since 2010, the appendix has had a site on the Internet, which greatly increased the audience of American readers.

The publication of the appendix “China Watch” is organized by editorial staff of the daily socio-political newspaper “China Daily” (circulation in the United States – more than 500 thousand copies, under the control of the Propaganda Department of the CPC Central Committee).

Since February 2013 in the United States the daily Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is owned by the agency “People’s Daily”, an organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, has been published in English and Chinese. The paper has 24 pages in its English version and 16 pages in the Chinese. This newspaper is distinguished by a certain “width” of views, it contains many analytical articles by Chinese authors, sometimes more critical than in the China Daily Newspaper, already familiar to Western readers.

An increase in the number of Chinese media focused on foreign audiences, in addition to expanding the capabilities of propaganda’s influence on foreign readers, also creates the effect of a variety of sources of information and pluralism in China.

Broadcasting in English in the United States is done by ‘CCTV-America’ China Central Television, which has studios in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. In published reports it focuses on economic success and investment attractiveness of China, so the audience gets the idea: doing business with China is very profitable. Political aspects serve only the interests of China in the appropriate manner so as to avoid, if possible, controversial topics. Reports are interspersed with scenes of the Chinese cuisine, culture and history.

In its propaganda in the United States, China actively uses the Internet, including to counter anti-China propaganda. Thus, after messages of American media that “distorted reality” on the events in Tibet in March 2008 and due to active work of Chinese bloggers, Beijing managed, in particular, to obtain an apology from The Washington Post Newspaper (USA).

A key feature of Chinese propaganda work is that it is of non-confrontational nature. Many negative publications about the United States and Western countries, their policies, financial position, social events and processes taking place there can be found in China’s foreign-language media and websites, with reference to foreign news agencies. Beijing skilfully uses the presence of a wide range of public sources of information and freedom of opinion in the West to distribute the necessary materials.

Hu Jieqiong in China. Image Source: Jonathan Kos-Read, Flickr, Creative Commons

Hu Jieqiong in China.
Image Source: Jonathan Kos-Read, Flickr, Creative Commons

Beijing’s ongoing propaganda largely facilitates the additional growth of the prestige and recognition of China abroad, including in the United States.

Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.