U.S. government agency to launch ‘Global Mandarin’ news service . . .
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) has reported that Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) are teaming up to launch a Chinese-language news service called Global Mandarin. VOA and RFA fall under the umbrella of the U.S. government’s Agency for Global Media, although RFA is a private non-profit organization. Some critics describe the VOA and RFA as propaganda arms of the U.S. government. Supporters say they provide an important source of information, including in dozens of languages, in countries that are subject to government censorship. According to the SCMP, Global Mandarin will focus on “softer content,” intended primarily for younger Chinese speakers in China, the U.S., and other media markets. However, due to China’s “great firewall” of censorship, it may be more likely that the coverage will reach Chinese-speakers outside of China rather than within.
Lopsided investment in foreign media . . .
The annual budget for the Global Mandarin venture is reportedly between US$5 million and US$10 million. This pales in comparison to the US$6.6 billion Chinese state-controlled media have spent over the past decade to compete for overseas audiences, including the Chinese diaspora in Canada and other Western countries. According to a 2019 Reporters Without Borders report, China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order, Beijing has been investing heavily in foreign media, including Chinese-language media, and spending impressive sums on placing supplements in prestigious international newspapers. These global efforts include using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, all of which are banned in China itself.
Finding an important niche . . .
Despite being out-spent by Beijing, VOA and RFA report that there were more than 65 million viewers and listeners of their existing Chinese-language broadcasts, an increase of six per cent over the previous year. They also noted that demand for their reporting tends to rise when major news stories related to China, such as events in Hong Kong and Taiwan and the detainment of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province, are subject to especially tight censorship by Beijing. As such, Global Mandarin might serve a narrow but vital purpose, particularly if non-government international media are effectively blocked within China due to state censorship.
- Foreign Policy (paywall): China’s $6 billion propaganda blitz is a snooze
- Reporters without Borders: China’s pursuit of a new world media order
- South China Morning Post: US launches new Mandarin network as Washington and Beijing battle for global influence