Beijing is waging a
clandestine media war
By Christian Fan Jiang S«¸´£©ù
Former Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Chiang Pin-kung (¦¿¤þ©[) recently
brought up the five-year-old idea of bringing the international news coverage of
China¡¦s China Central Television (CCTV) to Taiwan. The crucial part of
international news reporting is the analysis and viewpoints expressed in the
reports and the values a media outlet represents.
Ironically enough, a day before Chiang made the suggestion, the South Korean
newspaper Chosun Ilbo ran an analysis of the sluggish US economy, describing how
China is capitalizing on this weakness to disseminate propaganda.
The article started by saying that some US media outlets behaved as if they were
official Chinese media outlets during the Boao Forum for Asia.
The article said that the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal featured
full-page features on the Boao forum, with page designs that looked almost
exactly the same as the standard pages of these newspapers, and that unless
readers looked closely enough, they would not notice a tagline at the top of the
page that read: ¡§Paid advertisement.¡¨
These advertorials, called ¡§China Watch,¡¨ are presented as representing US
opinion and are now appearing on average once a week in a number of major US
papers, with one or two features at a time.
It is surprising to see that China can use its money so effectively and can get
leading papers like the Washington Post to post its advertorials in a fixed
section of the newspaper. In addition, China¡¦s official English-language
publication, the China Daily, is included in weekly or periodical inserts in
some major US newspapers. In other words, China is using the Washington Post
both for advertising and to disseminate the China Daily.
However, newspapers are not the main thrust of China¡¦s media war: What China
really wants to influence is TV news coverage.
In February last year, CCTV America started broadcasting from its headquarters
in Washington, with its operations centered in Beijing, allowing it to reach all
of China and the world¡¦s major cities. CCTV¡¦s news center in Washington employs
more than 200 journalists and administrative staff, most of them Chinese,
although there are some Western program presenters and reporters, including a
former 60 Minutes producer and former BBC reporters.
The Chosun Ilbo analyzed China¡¦s propaganda aimed at the US and said that
China¡¦s newspapers place a heavy emphasis on politics, while news from CCTV
places more of an emphasis on economic affairs, with the goal of increasing the
world¡¦s hopes for the Chinese economy and increasing economic cooperation
between the US and China.
The Chosun Ilbo also said that while CCTV¡¦s programs may only be broadcast one
hour a day, they employ more than 60 reporters.
What is occurring in the US shows the aggressive nature and size of China¡¦s
global media strategy.
If Taiwan is considered from this perspective, we can see that first of all
there was the media tug-of-war involving the Want Want China Times Group trying
to purchase some Next Media outlets and now there is Chiang proposing that
CCTV¡¦s international news by be brought to Taiwan.
In response to people¡¦s concerns over China¡¦s influence on the nation¡¦s media, a
Presidential Office spokesperson gave a vague response, saying only that
President Ma Ying-jeou (°¨^¤E) would take these suggestions into consideration.
This is really something that should make one shudder.
Christian Fan Jiang is deputy secretary-general of the Northern Taiwan
Translated by Drew Cameron