Report outlines Beijing’s global media manipulation

Billboard sitting on top of building (© Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping looks out from a propaganda billboard in Shanghai. The party controls the media in China to promote its image and message. (© Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is spending billions of dollars a year on its foreign propaganda and censorship efforts, including presenting state-owned outlets as independent journalism, according to a new report.

Beijing’s Global Megaphone, a new report from Freedom House published January 14, details how Beijing uses propaganda, censorship and content delivery systems to control global public opinion abroad.

Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, previously named Beijing as having the least free internet in the world.

“An economically powerful authoritarian state is rapidly expanding its influence over media production and dissemination,” said Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst, who wrote the report.


Hand holding folded newspaper (© Shutterstock)
China Daily, an English-language newspaper, is one of several media outlets controlled by the Chinese Communist Party that spreads the party’s propaganda. (© Shutterstock)

One of the CCP’s primary methods for disseminating its propaganda is the state-owned media outlets that publish overseas and in multiple languages, according to the report, which estimates that in 2009 alone the Chinese government spent $6 billion on expanding state media.

These outlets pretend to be independent news sources, while they really produce CCP propaganda. None of the outlets’ social media pages reviewed by Freedom House “reveal[ed] their state ownership or CCP editorial control.” According to the report:

  • People’s Daily bills itself as “the biggest newspaper in China,” when really it is the “official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.”
  • Xinhua News Agency calls itself “the first port of call for the latest and exclusive China and world news,” but it is really the “official Chinese state-owned news wire.”
  • China Global Television Network (CGTN) says that it is “China’s preeminent 24-hour news channel,” when it is actually the “international arm of state-owned broadcaster China Central Television.”
  • China Daily promotes itself as “the leading English-language news organization in China.” However, it is actually the “Chinese state-owned English-language newspaper.”
  • China Radio International broadcasts to 14 countries, often via privately owned intermediaries, but is state-funded programming of the CCP.

Beijing has censored news and social media in China for decades, but now, as the report notes, “Chinese officials have begun to use economic leverage to silence negative reporting or commentary” abroad.

Content Delivery

To firmly ensure control over media and messaging, Beijing is also working to control the means of delivery, such as cellular networks, TV stations and social media platforms.

By controlling the means of media delivery, the CCP “open[s] the door to a whole new level of influence,” one where “CCP-friendly gatekeepers are now positioned to” control news abroad, the report says.

Cook says this influence undermines “transparency, the rule of law, and fair competition.”