A Chinese newspaper reported that China has set aside 45 billion yuan, or $6.6 billion, to expand the country’s media outlets and improve its image in the foreign press.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency plans to expand its overseas bureaus and staff.
Cam MacMurchy hosts “BizTraveler” on Tianjin Television and launched the public relations and media company Performance Internationalis. He writes at “Zhongnanhai Blog” about the likely effect of the government’s investment on foreign conception of China.
China spends 45 billion to extend media’s global reach
“There is a big gap between China’s image among foreign people and its idea of itself.”
Renmin University Journalism Dean Yu Guoming is bang on in his observation, an argument we have been making here for quite some time. Many of the problems which arose during the Tibetan protests and torch relay controversy came from Chinese surprise that people overseas could have such strong feelings on these subjects — and feelings that were anathema to China’s official view. China was able to “reform and open” over thirty years, but it’s been far less successful in convincing those abroad of its global views and context.
The South China Morning Post (all articles behind a paywall) has run two stories today about Beijing’s RMB 45 billion investment in Chinese media organizations which target global audiences. The first, “Beijing in 45b yuan global media drive“, says the cash will be available to agencies which come up with worthwhile projects to enhance their global image. [...] The plus side for media people in China is a plethora of new jobs, according to the second article, “Big offers for English speakers in media jobs.” [...]
As with Communism itself, this media plan is good in theory. There’s no doubt that there is a gaping need for more Chinese viewpoints in the great discussions of the day. If Qatar can have an internationally-influential television channel, surely China can too. And there’s no reason why the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, CNN et al should have a disproportionate sway on what we see and hear.
China’s point of view and context for that point of view are sadly lacking, as I’m reminded of each time I’m asked to guest on a foreign radio station. But before we start considering an international Xinhua TV channel, what happened to CCTV 9? Isn’t CCTV 9 supposed to present China’s view to the world? Is there a point in lauching a second one without fixing the first?
The problem isn’t lack of TV channels or media outlets that present China’s case to foreigners, it’s the lack of any media outlets that present China’s case well. If Xinhua’s new TV endeavor is run in the same manner CCTV is, with the same group of life-long communist party members in bad suits calling the shots, it will be doomed to failure. In fact, I’d go one step further: any mainland Chinese run media outlet will be taken less seriously as long as general media controls are in place.
Which brings me to my second point: the credibility of the media in China. China could open a hundred news organizations and blanket the world with China’s point of view, but it would be greeted with just as much suspicion as it is now because China, despite all of its advancements, remains a one-party state with absolute control over all domestic media. This investment in more coverage may help to a degree: sure, we all know that China Daily is a government mouthpiece, but we read it because we get to know what the government thinks and it provides a decent (I’m being generous) roundup of what’s going on in the country. A new Xinhua TV Channel or Global Times newspaper may provide the same. But at the end of the day, it’s a lot of money being thrown at the symptom. China can’t buy itself credibility. Not even for 45 billion.
To be successful, in my humble opinion, the new international TV station or newspaper must be given free reign to cover what it wants.
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