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China Hires Western TikTokers To Polish Its Image During 2022 Winter Olympics

January 27th, 2022 15:30

UK media is report­ing that Chi­na is hir­ing west­ern social media influ­encers to spread pos­i­tive sto­ries about Chi­na through­out next month’s Win­ter Olympics and Par­a­lympics. Accord­ing to a report in The Guardian, Chi­na has hired a a US-based Newsweek con­trib­u­tor and for­mer Fox News and HSBC exec­u­tive to exe­cute an an influ­ence cam­paign on the coun­try’s behalf:

Jan­u­ary 22, 2022 An army of west­ern social media influ­encers, each with hun­dreds of thou­sands of fol­low­ers on Tik­Tok, Insta­gram or Twitch, is set to spread pos­i­tive sto­ries about Chi­na through­out next month’s Win­ter Olympics.  Con­cerned about the inter­na­tion­al back­lash against the Bei­jing Games amid a wave of diplo­mat­ic boy­cotts, the gov­ern­ment has hired west­ern PR pro­fes­sion­als to spread an alter­na­tive nar­ra­tive through social media.  In Novem­ber, as Joe Biden con­tem­plat­ed a diplo­mat­ic boy­cott, Vipin­der Jasw­al, a US-based Newsweek con­trib­u­tor and for­mer Fox News and HSBC exec­u­tive, signed a $300,000 con­tract with China’s con­sulate gen­er­al in New York to “strate­gise and exe­cute” an influ­encer cam­paign pro­mot­ing the Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics and Par­a­lympics in the US.  The con­tract, which has been reg­is­tered with the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice, lays out a detailed pub­lic rela­tions strat­e­gy. Accord­ing to the agree­ment, between 22 Novem­ber and 13 March, when the Win­ter Par­a­lympics end, each influ­encer will be asked to pro­duce three to five “deliv­er­ables”, mean­ing con­tent that is craft­ed to fit the tar­get­ed audi­ence. Jasw­al claims his com­pa­ny has received up to 50 pitch­es from influ­encers rang­ing from for­mer Olympians to entre­pre­neurs. The con­tract states that 70% of the con­tent will be cul­ture-relat­ed, includ­ing Beijing’s his­to­ry, cul­tur­al relics, modem life of peo­ple and new trends. Anoth­er 20% will high­light “coop­er­a­tion and any good things in Chi­na-US rela­tions”, includ­ing high-lev­el bilat­er­al changes and pos­i­tive outcomes.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that for more than a decade, Chi­na has been ramp­ing up its over­seas mes­sag­ing effort through state-spon­sored media out­lets. In May, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed that Chi­na had become the top spender on for­eign influ­ence oper­a­tions in the US, with Chi­nese for­eign agent spend­ing sky­rock­et­ing from just over $10 mil­lion in 2016 to near­ly $64 mil­lion in 2020. We have also report­ed that China’s US for­eign influ­ence oper­a­tion bud­get is focused main­ly on tele­vi­sion broad­cast­ing and oth­er media activities.