Washington: China is intensifying its campaign to influence and manipulate news and information worldwide, and using an array of tools to project a positive image of itself abroad, a US-based watchdog group said in a report released on Thursday September 8, RFA reported.
In Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia were vulnerable to Beijing’s influence campaigns from early 2019 through the end of last year, while the Philippines was more resilient, according to the new report by Freedom House, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Washington.
“The Chinese government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, is accelerating a massive campaign to influence media outlets and news consumers around the world. While some aspects of this effort use the tools of traditional public diplomacy, many others are covert, coercive, and potentially corrupt,” the report said in giving an overview of Beijing’s media influence push across the globe, RFA reported.
“A growing number of countries have demonstrated considerable resistance in recent years, but Beijing’s tactics are simultaneously becoming more sophisticated, more aggressive, and harder to detect.”
The report examined efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to sway media and consumers beginning January 1, 2019, through the end of December 2021 and found that China’s government scaled up its global media footprint in 29 countries and Taiwan during that period.
“Since the early 2000s, acting on instructions from top leaders, CCP officials have invested billions of dollars in a far more ambitious campaign to shape media content and narratives around the world and in multiple languages,” the report said, RFA reported.
The CCP has accelerated its foreign media influence campaign alongside an apparent decline in the global reputation of China and its president, particularly among people who live in parliamentary democracies.
“This mission has gained urgency and significance since 2019, as global audiences have displayed sympathy toward pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and Uyghurs detained in Xinjiang, while blaming Chinese officials for suppressing information about the initial outbreak of COVID-19.”
As part of the campaign, Chinese diplomats and state media outlets have “openly promoted falsehoods or misleading content,” the report said, RFA reported.
“[T]here was a concerted effort to whitewash and deny the human rights atrocities and violations of international law being committed against members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Freedom House said, calling this “the most disturbing result of the CCP’s global media influence campaign.”