ChinaMarch 7 2023, 8:45 am

China’s Propaganda Chief Calls on Media Outlets to Promote Its Message

Chi­nese state media have been report­ing on an innocu­ous-sound­ing meet­ing held on Tues­day in Bei­jing where Chi­na’s pro­pa­gan­da chief pro­mot­ed the coun­try’s mes­sage to the assem­bled media rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This meet­ing is being called an ‘inter­na­tion­al forum for media exchanges among Belt and Road coun­tries.” Report­ed­ly attend­ing were over 120 guests from 54 uniden­ti­fied main­stream media out­lets in 33 coun­tries and regions, orga­nized by Chi­na Media Group, the media con­glom­er­ate found­ed in 2018 by fus­ing all state-hold­ing media enterprises.

Li Shulei, a mem­ber of the Polit­i­cal Bureau of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and head of the Pub­lic­i­ty Depart­ment of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, said at the forum the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI) had become a wide­ly wel­comed glob­al pub­lic good over the past ten years. Li said Chi­na would stay firm­ly on the path of peace­ful devel­op­ment, remain com­mit­ted to a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial strat­e­gy of open­ing up, boost high-qual­i­ty devel­op­ment of the BRI, and pro­mote the build­ing of a com­mu­ni­ty with a shared future for humanity.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI), also known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR), is a mas­sive infra­struc­ture and devel­op­ment project launched by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment in 2013. The ini­tia­tive aims to cre­ate a net­work of trade routes, both by land and sea, con­nect­ing Asia, Europe, and Africa and enhance eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion and cul­tur­al exchange between Chi­na and oth­er par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries. The BRI com­pris­es two main com­po­nents: the Silk Road Eco­nom­ic Belt, which is a net­work of over­land cor­ri­dors link­ing Chi­na with Europe, the Mid­dle East, and Cen­tral Asia, and the 21st Cen­tu­ry Mar­itime Silk Road, which is a series of sea routes con­nect­ing Chi­na with South­east Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The BRI has been described as the largest and most ambi­tious infra­struc­ture project in his­to­ry, with an esti­mat­ed cost of up to $4–8 tril­lion. It involves build­ing and upgrad­ing ports, rail­ways, high­ways, air­ports, pipelines, and oth­er infra­struc­ture across over 70 coun­tries, encom­pass­ing over 60% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion and 30% of the glob­al GDP. The coun­tries of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI) are spread across all continents:

38 coun­tries in Sub-Saha­ran Africa
34 coun­tries in Europe & Cen­tral Asia (includ­ing 18 coun­tries of the EU)
25  coun­tries in East Asia & pacific
17 coun­tries in the Mid­dle East & North Africa
18 coun­tries in Latin Amer­i­ca & Caribbean
6 coun­tries in South East Asia

Li Shulei’s pres­ence the forum is no sur­prise. A pro­tégé of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, he was appoint­ed last year as the Com­mu­nist Par­ty’s pro­pa­gan­da chief. At 58, he was among the 13 new mem­bers of the lat­est Polit­buro, and his pro­mo­tion to the top job at the cen­tral pro­pa­gan­da depart­ment had been expect­ed. In his new capac­i­ty, Li will enforce Xi’s vision on ide­ol­o­gy, films, the inter­net, and the media. He is expect­ed to spear­head Bei­jing’s dri­ve to shape the glob­al nar­ra­tive about China.

The CPC’s media strat­e­gy is inte­gral to its glob­al influ­ence oper­a­tions. In his speech, Li Shulei empha­sized the impor­tance of media out­lets in pro­mot­ing Chi­na’s mes­sage and advanc­ing its inter­ests. He called on media out­lets to “active­ly spread the con­cepts of joint­ly seiz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, meet­ing chal­lenges, and real­iz­ing greater pros­per­i­ty.” This aligns with Chi­na’s broad­er efforts to shape glob­al pub­lic opin­ion and pro­mote its image as a respon­si­ble glob­al actor.

How­ev­er, Chi­na’s media strat­e­gy has also been crit­i­cized for its lack of trans­paren­cy and its ten­den­cy to sup­press crit­i­cal voic­es. The CPC exer­cis­es strict con­trol over the media in Chi­na, and this extends to its media oper­a­tions abroad. This has raised con­cerns among some ana­lysts that Chi­na’s grow­ing media influ­ence could under­mine press free­dom and democ­ra­cy in oth­er countries





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