The Jamestown Foundation, a US think tank, is reporting on China’s global campaign to expand its media influence, arguing that Beijing’s strategy to cultivate a positive image of China has primarily succeeded in developing markets. At the same time, its efforts in the West remain a work-in-progress. According to the Jamestown report:
October 8, 2021 Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China has spent billions of dollars to increase the reach of its state-run media outlets and bolster its reputation abroad. CGTN, which was previously the international branch of China Central Television (CCTV) but rebranded in 2016, exemplifies this government-led effort. The state-owned Xinhua News Agency has expanded its overseas bureaus from 100 in 2008 to 181 as of February 2021, a move all the more notable as many Western outlets have slashed their numbers of foreign correspondents (Xinhua, February 9; The Conversation, January 10, 2019). Both CGTN and Xinhua extensively recruit foreign and English-speaking talent (Facebook, April 14, 2018). The state-led effort to raise the international prestige of Chinese state media has produced tangible results. For example, in 2019, the International Olympic Committee recognized Xinhua as one of its four official international news agencies—alongside Reuters, the Associated Press, and the Paris-based Agence France-Presse (Olympics, January 30, 2019). China’s campaign to expand its media influence is not limited to CGTN and Xinhua. Lesser-known entities have ventured abroad including Hunan Province’s Mango TV, which has a strong presence in Vietnam, and the Beijing-based StarTimes, which has expanded majorly in Africa. Beijing’s global media strategy to cultivate a positive image of China has primarily succeeded in developing markets, likely due to these outlets’ funding limitations, and the greater audience receptivity in developing areas. These challenges have prompted a strategy shift by Communist Party officials to “buying the boat,” that is, directly acquiring foreign media outlets and shaping their coverage. However, sanctions against Chinese news organizations in the United Kingdom and the United States suggest that Beijing’s campaign for hearts and minds abroad remains less effective in nations with more developed media institutions.
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