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China’s Campaign For Global Media Influence Succeeds In Developing Markets

October 20th, 2021 13:16

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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