Sun, Dec 30, 2018 - Page 6 News List

[ LETTER ]

China’s influence operations

Josh Rogin, a columnist for the Washington Post, sounded the alarm in an article explaining that China’s state-run media companies are rapidly expanding their integration with Western news outlets as part of Beijing’s worldwide foreign-influence campaign. In Washington, lawmakers from both sides are calling out such arrangements and demanding that US media companies make sure they do not become tools of Chinese government propaganda.

“As with all authoritarian regimes, the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] is organized around manipulation and control of information and ideas. Under [Chinese] President Xi Jinping [習近平], the party has rapidly and boldly expanded its efforts to influence discussion about China beyond its borders, in part through the global expansion of state-run media outlets. The goal is to suppress any criticism of the Chinese government and shape the international discussion of China in ways favorable to the party’s interests,” the Post reported.

Beijing is committed to limiting free expression, and any partnership between China’s state media enterprises and those of democracies must take this into account, said Christopher Walker, senior vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Xinhua, China’s largest state-run news agency, last month said that it is expanding cooperation with US news service The Associated Press (AP), many of whose articles appear in the Taipei Times.

AP chief executive Gary Pruitt traveled to Beijing to meet with Xinhua president Cai Mingzhao (蔡名照), who said that “the two news agencies have broad cooperation in areas including new media, the application of artificial intelligence and economic information.”

As readers of the Taipei Times can imagine, Xinhua’s description of this kind of cooperation has raised alarms in the US Congress, where members of the Republican and Democratic parties are newly attuned to Chinese foreign-influence operations inside the US.

“In sharp contrast to the AP’s independent journalism, Xinhua’s core mission is to shape public opinion in ways sympathetic to the CCP’s legitimacy and behavior,” 14 US lawmakers wrote to Pruitt on Dec. 19, Rogin said in his article.

The letter was led by US representatives Mike Gallagher and Brad Sherman, and signed by US senators Tom Cotton, Mark Warner and Marco Rubio.

The lawmakers said that the US Department of Justice this year required Xinhua to register as a foreign agent under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Xinhua functions as an arm of Beijing’s propaganda machine and also “serves some of the functions of an intelligence agency,” the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s annual report said last year.

The commission said that Xinhua is rapidly expanding worldwide in an effort to undermine and discredit Western media outlets, and control public discussion of China.

Congress is asking the AP to release the text of its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Xinhua, reveal what cooperation they are planning and assure lawmakers that Xinhua will not influence AP’s reporting or have access to any sensitive information in AP’s possession.

“As a state-run news agency, Xinhua serves as a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party. Its propaganda mission is wholly distinct from legitimate fact-based journalism,” Gallagher told the Post. “Everything we know about the CCP suggests that it will use this partnership to better shape global public opinion to the detriment of American interests and those suffering under the CCP’s oppression.”

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