China Makes Global Media Push, But Skeptics Abound

19 April 2011 18 h 51 min 0 comments

In the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs in early March of this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that her country is losing the “information war,” naming China’s CCTV, along with Al Jazeera and Russia Today, as key rivals. 
by Andy Yee, on (April 19, 2011)

“During the Cold War we did a great job in getting America’s message out. After the Berlin Wall fell we said, ‘Okay, fine, enough of that, we are done,’ and unfortunately we are paying a big price for it,” she said.


In recent years, China has been actively projecting a new international image as a responsible and peaceful global player. China is learning the tools of soft power to gain a better reputation abroad. Confucius Institutes — non-profit public institutions aimed at spreading Chinese language and culture internationally — are mushrooming. Another key part of the strategy is the spreading of Chinese media abroad.

In 2009, the Chinese government reportedly committed as much as CNY 45 billion (U.S. $6 billion) to global media expansion in, as President Hu Jintao described it, “an increasingly fierce struggle in the domain of news and opinion.”

China has been actively increasing public diplomacy strategies while Western media outlets, both official and private, are cutting back. CCTV-9, the state-owned English TV channel, which features news and cultural shows, is broadcast worldwide. The English version of Global Times, which is affiliated with the official People’s Daily, was launched in April of 2009. According to its website, it boasts to have over 500 special correspondents and contributors worldwide. In July of 2009, the state news agency Xinhua started providing news broadcasts on European supermarket screens.

… / …

Independent-minded journalists at liberal print media such as Southern Weekend, Southern Metropolis Daily (both under the Guangzhou-based Southern Media Group) and the Beijing-based Caijing Magazine have been delivering top quality investigative journalism, and are widely respected by local readers and foreign China observers.

However, China is moving in the opposite direction, as outspoken journalists perceived as consistently critical of the government are being targeted one after another. In January this year, Chang Ping, one of the most respected journalists in China, was sacked from the Southern Media Group. In March, Time Weekly opinion editor Peng Xiaoyun and outspoken Southern Weekend commentator Chen Ming respectively received dismissal and sabbatical notices. They are known for covering controversial stories, such as the imprisonment of food safety advocate Zhao Lianhai, and the prejudices Chinese media carried while reporting on Beijing’s brutal crackdown of the riots in Tibet in 2008.

As China is spending billions of dollars to make its media go global, it also needs to rethink its heavy-handed approach on media control and suppression of free speech. The world welcomes a diversity of voices, including that of China, but not one which is distorted, censored and sanitized.

Andy Yee is a writer, blogger and translator from Hong Kong. He writes about Chinese and Asian politics at Global Voices Online, ChinaGeeks, openDemocracy and East Asia Forum. He holds a Masters in East Asian Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

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SOURCE: (19/04/2011)

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