China’s still more than a little archaic

The IFJ report, The China Story: reshaping the world’s media, argues Beijing is also seeking to build control over messaging infrastructure – effectively the channels by which countries receive news – through foreign media acquisitions and large-scale telecommunications ventures. The report found the decade-long campaign “seems to be escalating”.

The survey, carried out in September and October 2019, asked journalism unions from 58 countries on whether they have received overtures from Beijing. This included questions about sponsored trips, content-sharing agreements and approaches to sign bilateral agreements with Chinese bodies.

If you were to attempt to influence modern media you’d work through journalism unions, right?

Well, if you came from a corporatist society like China, perhaps you would, but it’ll not be all that hugely effective, no?

15 thoughts on “China’s still more than a little archaic”

  1. Easy way to find commies though.

    China is starting to learn about modern communications. For example, it has successfully diverted most of the criticism over COVID-19 simply by shouting “racist!”

    Looks like it is learning pretty quickly to me.

  2. Why not?

    If you can get those journalism unions to write off all blogs and independent media as far-right nutters it’d be an effective strategy, wouldn’t it?

    Oh, look …

    You also can’t do journalism in what some people elected to the HKSAR Legco referred to as the “People’s Refucking of Shina” without licenses, credentials and stuff. There is still plenty of control over what news leaves the country (or even is disseminated within the country), even if they couldn’t now pull off another Tiananmen.

  3. China’s Still More Than A Little Archaic

    Indeed. 30m of the blighters still live in caves.

  4. Dunno, journalism unions do a bang up job of slanting news coverage in Britain.

    How many times do you hear about rapes committed by asylum seekers in the national news? It’s usually relegated to the local press. Of course, if it was t’other way around it’d be national and international news for weeks.

    The reason for this is NUJ guidelines. So, for example, a plane towing a sign saying “WHITE LIVES MATTER” is a shocking and terrible racism that must be condemned in the big papers, but the gang of 50-odd asylum seekers who were systematically grooming and raping little girls in Glasgow was completely ignored by most of the media.

  5. The full report is here and very much worth reading, just eight pages.

    I note that the story is talking mostly about non-English-speaking countries, largely on the Belt and Road Initiative. In places like Myanmar there isn’t going to be a modern Western style press and news media is there?

    I’m not an expert on Myanmarese journalism but seems awfully unlikely their government would allow such. So when journalists go on months of paid “training” courses in China arranged through their union to help remove their “Western bias” about what a free press means, I can see that being effective. Working through existing structures may be very powerful because you’re essentially co-opting that state’s existing propaganda regime to blow your trumpet too.

    Similarly for other methods listed in the full report like content-sharing material from Xinhau (hilariously Philippine state media has such an agreement and ended up publishing a Chinese-written piece condemning the International Court of Justice for siding with the Philippines against China in their South China Sea dispute!) and buying up local media (I was surprised just how much of the Portuguese press is under Chinese ownership but in many developing countries it’s even more dramatic).

    There’s an older Guardian report on the “borrowing a boat to go out on an ocean” strategy that has more focus on their influence on the West at – if I were an MP or congressman I would be pretty alarmed to be honest, some of it is pretty sophisticated stuff and I don’t recall the Soviet Union having similar capacity to co-opt entire media structures (at least Western ones). This is way above having some sympathetic useful idiot write whatabouterey editorials arguing why the West is evil too and the East has much to teach us every time details of the latest communist crime leaks out from behind their borders. It’s about wresting control of the media narrative, at least wide enough to broadcast their views over the whole tv/radio/dead tree/online spectrum even if they aren’t yet able to shut down opposing ones (and in some countries they already can do that).

  6. MBE, ‘ if I were an MP or congressman I would be pretty alarmed to be honest,’ Most MPs and congressmen are alarmed to think they are missing out, and ‘to be honest’ doesn’t enter the equation at all.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    I was listening to Steve Baker talking about the China Research Group that he’s been setting up in Parliament on the New Statesman podcast of all places and I think he and a number of other MPs get it. I expect some quite strong anti China stuff to be coming out soon.

  8. @BIND

    I’m a bit concerned what practical actions are available. For things like “research” and “training” trips you can always make foreign journos a counter-offer (“come and do a sponsored masters degree in London”, “trip of a lifetime across America” kind of thing). I suspect the main effect of that sort of bidding war would be to make journalism an increasingly financially/lifestyle attractive career in developing countries rather than push back against Chinese anti-Western narratives, but I might be wrong. What you can do about Chinese press agencies feeding their input straight into national broadcasters, or Chinese media companies simply buying up that country’s press, I’m less sure. I said that Philippines example was hilarious – their own national broadcaster broadcasting Chinese anti-Philippines propaganda – but it hints at just how difficult it would be to escape from such deep and pervasive influence.

    The contrast with Russia is interesting, bearing in mind how much Putin’s media operations were the bogeyman 5-10 years ago. RT and Sputnik are very expensive ways to reach not a lot of eyeballs in the UK and don’t seem to have been successful at agenda-setting and getting any conventional UK media sources to follow their leads or views. Though I read that Russian-controlled media operations are surprisingly powerful in Germany (where Russian-language broadcasts to the large Russian community supplants German sources as that group’s main source of news) and less surprisingly are a tool of influence in Baltic and other ex-Soviet states. Paying trolls to post in comments sections and so on is probably a waste of time. The thing Russia seems to pulled more focus onto is influencing social media narratives, rather than trying to exert control over formal media structures. Perhaps that will be more successful in the West. What China is doing may be more successful in states where the government already clamps down on free expression so the handful of officially-endorsed media organisations (not necessarily formally state-owned or run, but those prepared to jump through enough hoops for the government to allow to keep their “independent” existence) are still powerful and worth capturing.

  9. If I were chinese, I might think “I do not understand what is happening with Western media, but it looks quite self-destructive, perhaps I should leave it alone for now, and see what happens.”

  10. This parsing of soft-power politics makes sense only if we concede that there exists such things as national interest, nation … dare I say, a national pepo …?

    Otherwise, hoogivsadam?

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    I’m not sure w hat can legitimately be done without cutting of our noses to spite our faces (sanctions and trade embargoes).

    I suppose we could start by closing down Confucius Institutes in the west. These are just propaganda arms of the Communist Party and used to keep tabs on Chinese students.

    The idea of a D10 group to challenge the politically is a good idea.

    Other than that good old fashioned diplomacy and trying to support nascent democracies that are threatened by Chinese support of autocrats.

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