Growing bolder . . .
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has intensified its efforts to shape global media coverage of issues within China and China’s activities overseas. That was a key finding of a new report by Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization focused on democracy, political freedoms, and human rights worldwide. The report focuses on the period from 2019 to 2021, when Beijing spent considerable amounts of money and embraced “more sophisticated and coercive tactics” to suppress negative reporting about itself and promote more favourable coverage. The report says the CCP did this through a combination of means, including disseminating Beijing-backed content through foreign media’s mainstream news sources, harassing and intimidating outlets that publish content critical of China, and deploying disinformation campaigns.
Desperate times, aggressive measures . . .
The report suggests that the ramping up of efforts to influence global media coverage reflects China’s growing sense of urgency, especially after 2019, when it came under increasingly harsh international scrutiny for its crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong, revelations of possible genocide against Muslims in Xinjiang, and initial efforts to cover up the emergence of COVID-19. The Freedom House report also looked at the effectiveness of these efforts in 30 democracies, finding an alarming degree of unevenness in democracies’ ability to counter these efforts. Taiwan, the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. showed considerable resilience, whereas several countries in Africa and the Middle East were more vulnerable, with Nigeria being especially susceptible.
Recommended remedies . . .
According to Freedom House, countries must adopt a co-ordinated approach to building greater resilience to China’s media-influence operations. It says this must involve not just media organizations but also governments, civil society, and technology companies, and should include fortifying existing press freedoms, increasing transparency in reporting and media ownership, diversifying coverage of China, and building the China expertise of the journalistic corps. One specific recommendation is to ensure robust reporting that sheds light on these influence operations themselves. Failure to meet the moment, says Freedom House, will skew and limit the quality of reporting on China, having the effect of “obstructing public and elite understanding of China itself.”
- The Diplomat: China’s changing disinformation and propaganda targeting Taiwan
- Freedom House: Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022
- Nikkei Asia: China builds global media muscle to amplify its message