Tienchi Martin-Liao, Writers for Peace Committee
(Paper for 53rd International Writers’ Meeting at Bled, 8.-12.6.2021 )
Mr. Jim Banks is a US-Republican politician from Indiana. Mr. Banks wondered why all the congressmen and women of both the House of Representatives and Senate receive daily news beside US domestic media like the Washington Post, New York Times and the Chinese propaganda press – China Daily. Therefore he wrote a letter to the administrative chief of the US House of Representatives, Mr. Philip Kiko, urging him to do some investigation.
It is an open secret that the Chinese Communist Party makes it’s propaganda outreach not only to the Whitehouse but also to all continents, with Africa on top.
The Chinese propaganda mechanism has become a national strategy, since the CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao promoted the “soft power initiative” and launched the “Grand External Propaganda Strategy” (Da waixuan) in 2009. The Beijing government has budgeted billions of dollars with the aim of “seizing the initiative, gaining the right to speak, maintaining an active role, and grasping the power to raise the appeal of our positions in public opinion and in international broadcasting. “
Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China has increased the aggressive means to outreach the international platform of information, culture and art. “Tell the story of China well” is a slogan about the PRC’s external propaganda put forward by Xi Jinping at the National Propaganda and ideological Work Conference in August 2013. “Spread the voice of China”, “Tell the story of socialism with Chinese characteristics, of excellent culture, and of China’s peaceful development,” said the head of CCP and the president of China.
In 2011, the Chinese government has rent the huge advertisement board at the Time Square in New York. Beautiful landscape and prosperous daily life of the Chinese people are shown on the board day and night. This soft way of brainwashing has a positive effect, New York citizens got the impression, this beautiful and rich country is like ours, it is even more peaceful and down-to-earth, not as commercial and superficial as the US.
It is important to know that the official Chinese language nowadays avoids the use of the word “propaganda”. Instead the word “publicity” appears more and more, yet the intention behind remains the same. The CCP wants to reshape its image as a peaceful and trustworthy partner. The world should have a positive image from China, it’s a sheep not a wolf.
Two main instruments of the cultural and media invasions are applied by Chinese government:
- The Confucius Institutes
The CI is supported by the Chinese Ministry of Education affiliated Office of Chinese Language Council International. It cooperates with colleges and universities all over the world. The purpose of CI is to promote and teach Chinese languages and culture as well as to provide cultural and artistic presentations in the host land. Normally the host land provides the location and venue, the Chinese side sends the language teachers from China, to cover all the expenses of staff and teaching materials.
From the first CI set up in Seoul in 2004 till today, there are over 550 CI and 1193 Confucius Classes in 154 countries.
Is the CI really an usual facility that promotes national culture and language like Britain’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française, or Germany’s Goethe-Institute? The answer is no. Li Changchun, a high Chinese cadre of the Politburo once said: “Confucius Institutes are an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” The critics to CI have increased with time, many believe that this Chinese facility has interfered with academic freedom. It covered up the industrial espionage, undermined the value of democracy and freedom, and trickled subtly the communist ideology into the brain of the young students in the hosting countries.
No wonder that there are series of close downs of the CI in the US, Canada, UK, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Australia, France, Belgium and Germany. It is unacceptable that authoritarian ideas and game rules creep into the high educational institutes in the Western and the whole world.
In Slovenia, the CI has been established at the University of Ljubljana since 2010. According to their website: “The main purpose of CI Ljubljana is to promote Chinese language and culture among students, the community and companies. It encourages business opportunities in China and act as a bridge between the Slovenian and Chinese business environments.” It sounds quite normal and noble, but do the Slovenian people really understand what is behind the camouflage of “bridge”?
- One way propaganda
-The State owned China Global Television Network (CGTN) broadcasts it’s programs in Western countries
Recently Reporters without Borders (RSF) has published an alarming article “Democracies need a reciprocity mechanism to combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes”. It warned that legal action in Europe involving China Global Television Network (CGTN) and the Chinese state TV broadcaster has highlighted the degree to which despotic governments export their propaganda while barring independent news media domestically. It indicated that CGTN is directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department, CGTN broadcasts in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic throughout the world, but foreign media broadcasting within China is extremely restricted.
The British media regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) withdrew CGTN’s license to broadcast in the United Kingdom in February and fined it in March for broadcasting a forced confession by former journalist Peter Humphrey . But France’s High Council for Broadcasting (CSA) ruled on 3 March that, since foreign satellite TV channels do not require prior permission under French law, CGTN can continue to be “broadcast freely, without prior formality” by the French satellite operator Eutelsat.
In Germany, for example, CGTN was banned from cable distribution following the Ofcom decision but was restored after the CSA decision. This situation illustrates the limits on the resources available to democracies for opposing Beijing’s aggressive propaganda.
CGTN is actually CCTV, the official monopoly Chinese TV apparatus. It changed to this name in 2016. With the strong backing of the government, it has broadcast centers in four continents: North America (Washington DC), Africa (Nairobi), Europe (London), Asia (Beijing). There are 70 bureaus around the world.
Though working outside Chinese border, CGTN still receives the order and is under the control of the CCP. It does not follow the media rules in the free world. Freedom, Independence and pluralism are not the maxim of the media workers at the CGTN abroad. Without the prior control, it can not broadcast the news or commentaries.
Today, the world media often reports about the “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, where over one million Uyghurs are detained. The Chinese government alleges that many of them are terrorists and uneducated, so they should be put into these “vocational centers”, where they receive the Chinese language and vocational training. The international community, including US, Canada, Netherland and England call this as “genocide” and accuse China for committing the crime against humanity. But looking at CGTN’s website, Xinjiang is described as a paradise, where people live in prosperity and happiness. What shall we believe, paradise or hell?
RSF has declared clearly: “The asymmetry between open democratic countries with journalistic freedom, on the one hand, and authoritarian countries that control information and export propaganda, on the other, undermines journalism and, more broadly, the reliability of information, which supposes freedom, independence and pluralism. This asymmetry give dictatorships a competitive advantage over democracies without serving the cause of journalism, which the dictatorships block domestically while exporting their propaganda.”
Therefore RSF appeals for the “reciprocity mechanism”, which puts the democratic and authoritarian countries on the same scale. In this case, China must allow the foreign media companies to run their business in China, as CGTN does abroad. Too long has the Western endured unequal handling rules with China. While the communist ideology and manipulated information flows freely in Western, the free, independent and pluralistic information is blocked outside the door of the country.
It is not that the authoritarian regimes are strong, it is because the democratic countries are weak and incompatible. The wall of information blockade must be broken in authoritarian countries. The free flow of their political propaganda in the free world needs to be blocked.