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How China Cultivates A Network Of Western Pro-China YouTube Influencers

December 19th, 2021 15:43

US media is report­ing on China’s attempts to cul­ti­vate a net­work of West­ern YouTube influ­encers liv­ing in Chi­na spread­ing pro-Chi­na mes­sages online. Accord­ing to a New York Times investigation:

Decem­ber 13, 2021 Mil­lions have watched Lee and Oli Barrett’s YouTube dis­patch­es from Chi­na. The father and son duo vis­it hotels in exot­ic locales, tour out-of-the-way vil­lages, sam­ple del­i­ca­cies in bustling mar­kets and under­go tra­di­tion­al ear clean­ings.  The Bar­retts are part of a crop of new social media per­son­al­i­ties who paint cheery por­traits of life as for­eign­ers in Chi­na — and also hit back at crit­i­cisms of Beijing’s author­i­tar­i­an gov­er­nance, its poli­cies toward eth­nic minori­ties and its han­dling of the coro­n­avirus. The videos have a casu­al, home­spun feel. But on the oth­er side of the cam­era often stands a large appa­ra­tus of gov­ern­ment orga­niz­ers, state-con­trolled news media and oth­er offi­cial ampli­fiers — all part of the Chi­nese government’s widen­ing attempts to spread pro-Bei­jing mes­sages around the plan­et.  State-run news out­lets and local gov­ern­ments have orga­nized and fund­ed pro-Bei­jing influ­encers’ trav­el, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments and the cre­ators them­selves. They have paid or offered to pay the cre­ators. They have gen­er­at­ed lucra­tive traf­fic for the influ­encers by shar­ing videos with mil­lions of fol­low­ers on YouTube, Twit­ter and Face­book.  With offi­cial media out­lets’ back­ing, the cre­ators can vis­it and film in parts of Chi­na where the author­i­ties have obstruct­ed for­eign jour­nal­ists’ reporting.

Read the full inves­ti­ga­tion here.

The NYT report notes that most of the West­ern YouTu­bers deny that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment some­how influ­ences their work, even when gov­ern­ment enti­ties some­times pay them for their videos.  How­ev­er, the report details how their con­tent still serves as pro­pa­gan­da for the Chi­nese government:

  • Trips for trav­el videos are often orga­nized by gov­ern­ment enti­ties that decide what places to visit
  • Chi­nese gov­ern­ment enti­ties often pro­mote the videos on social media to boost their chan­nels and dis­tort social media algorithms
  • Chi­nese diplo­mats and rep­re­sen­ta­tives have shown their videos at news conferences

The GIOR has report­ed how The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment uses British and Cana­di­an YouTu­bers liv­ing in Chi­na to fur­ther its pro­pa­gan­da war and defend itself against criticism.