Former Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) 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 (馬英九) 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 Society.
Translated by Drew Cameron