The Jamestown Foundation, a US think tank, is reporting that China’s state propaganda apparatus is expanding its influence among foreign audiences through what are described as “advertorial inserts” in Western mainstream media outlets, both hardcopy and online. According to a Jamestown Foundation report:
April 12, 2021 A long history exists of PRC state media outlets paying for “advertorial” inserts into major U.S. newspapers such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times—often under the banners of “China Watch” or “China Focus,” which are both headings used by Xinhua for its English-language content (see accompanying images). The articles in these inserts are intended to look like news and editorial material presented by the host newspaper (albeit accompanied by disclaimers, often in small print), but represent propaganda content prepared by the CCP’s foreign media apparatus. […] While Xinhua’s hardcopy newspaper inserts have been the subject of attention for many years, far less attention has been given to the migration of this material to electronic media—where it has the potential to reach even wider audiences, and in some instances to be more specifically tailored towards particular target audiences. […]
For several years and continuing throughout much of 2020, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has hosted sponsored Xinhua material on a WSJ-associated China Watch webpage. According to the previously mentioned FARA documents, from the period of November 2019 to April 2020 WSJ was the recipient of an undisclosed amount of CDDC advertising funds; in May-June 2020 the WSJ received $85,296.69, but payments for 2020 apparently ceased at that point. During this period, WSJ appears to have cancelled, or at least paused, its business relationship with CDDC: although the WSJ-hosted webpage for China Daily content remains online as of March 31, 2021, it no longer provides active links to any articles.
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The report notes that the New York-based China Daily Distribution Corporation (CDDC), an affiliate of China’s state media outlet Xinhua, serves as the executive agent for promoting Chinese propaganda “advertorial” content in North America. The report also notes that between November 2019 — October 2020, the CDDC received almost $10 million from its parent company to support printing and advertising costs (both print and online) for Xinhua materials.
Recent Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) coverage of China’s influence operations includes:
- In April, we reported that China is using Western YouTubers to defend itself against accusations of human rights violations in Xinjiang.
- In March, an exclusive GIOR investigation exposed a Chinese influence operation flooding YouTube with hundreds of propaganda videos whitewashing China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and pushing the hashtag #StopXinjiangRumors.
- In March, we also reported that China tries to control its international students studying at Scottish universities through student associations.