In an effort to sway American public opinion to its side, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been trying to influence U.S. media for the past several decades. This is done in two ways — covertly owning pro-CCP media and influencing independent media.
CCP’s media plan in the U.S.
Beijing and its supporters have been buying up Chinese media in the U.S. for the past several decades so as to remove any negative reporting on China. The CCP wants the American Chinese community to only be fed with pro-Chinese news so that it can gain influence over them and use ethnic pride to make Chinese Americans do their bidding.
Wenxuecheng, a popular Chinese language website in the U.S., was launched in 1997 by a group of university students. It was later sold off to a Taiwan-American businessman with deep connections to China. Subsequently, Wenxuecheng signed deals with state-owned Xinhua and China Daily to run their news.
Another popular news website called Duowei was bought by a Hong Kong businessman having mainland Chinese connections. Similarly, a top Chinese website called backchina.com came under the influence of the CCP after its editors attended a pro-China forum in 2017. The website has largely been reporting positive news from China ever since.
Hundreds of such U.S. Chinese language media outlets are reportedly under control of the CCP and its supporters. Beijing has also set up the China News Service Overseas Center, which provides news and reports to all Chinese media organizations around the globe. The aim is to control news coming out from China so that the CCP can ensure that only good things about the country are published in foreign Chinese media.
In addition to owning Chinese language media, the CCP also tries to influence popular U.S. English language media to subvert news to their liking. If any independent media is seen as a threat to “tarnish” the image of the CCP, the Party apparently starts threatening them, even imprisoning any Chinese attached to such media back home.
“We get cyber attacks of all sorts. It’s a weekly thing… When The Epoch Times was founded back in 2000, a batch of people in China came to become journalists. Almost immediately, within a month, they were arrested. Ten of them were sentenced to 3- to 10-year terms… In America, thugs of Chinese origin have beaten up our staff,” reported Jan Jekielek, senior editor at The Epoch Times and a producer at NTD Television.
Controlling Chinese media
To control the growing influence of the CCP in America, the United States administration has started asking Chinese state-run media outlets to register as foreign agents in the country. News agencies like Xinhua and Global Television Network (CGTN) were ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to register under the new law that would treat them like lobbyists working on behest of a foreign entity.
“The voice of Chinese media organisations is getting louder internationally… Control over the press is much greater now than before [Xi] came to power. Chinese media have always been political tools, but now the space for dissenting opinions is narrowing further,” Ardi Bouwers, a lecturer based in the Netherlands who focuses on Chinese media and communications, said to The Guardian.
New registration requirements will force media outlets like Xinhua and CGTN to disclose their expenditures, budgets, and include disclaimers in their broadcasts that will identify them as foreign agents.