China’s main state-run television network has launched a new international media platform to sell a positive image of China abroad in a soft power push to boost China’s influence.
China Central Television (CCTV) launched the China Global Television Network (CGTN) Saturday, CCTV reports. The new network includes six TV channels and one new media agency, Reuters introduced. The announcement comes in the wake of several years of Chinese angst over the success of Western media, and the formidable increase in the presence of English-language Russian media efforts.
“China needs to know better about the world and the world needs to know better about China,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory letter to the CGTN team, China’s Xinhua News Agency revealed.
“CGTN should tell stories about China well and spread China’s voice well,” the president added, strongly encouraging the new network to “enable the world to see a multidimensional and colorful China” and “present China as a builder of world peace, a contributor to development, and an upholder of international order.”
Russia, a relatively strong Chinese partner in international affairs, has had great success using its international media outlets for propaganda and soft power purposes. Outlets like Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik International are responsible for presenting a narrative advocated by the Russian government to people living in other countries. Through its Kremlin-backed outlets, Russia attempts to reshape international perceptions of Russian actions — such as the incursions into the Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and questionable acts in the conflict in Syria — and the behavior of primary critics, such as the U.S.
Sputnik was launched specifically to counter the U.S. view of the world with its own views.
“Wherever [the U.S. intervenes], bloodshed, civil wars and color revolutions ensue,” said Dmitry Kiselev, a Kremlin propaganda official and the director general of the Kremlin’s Rossiya Segodnya media conglomerate, said in 2014, “Russia proposes a model for the world that is based on respect for all of humanity,” he said. “We believe in a diverse, multicultural world, and we have many allies. To promote this outlook our media group is launching a new global brand, Sputnik.
China aspires to do the same through its growing state-sponsored media outlets; however, it has encountered some difficulties in achieving the desired results.
“As China’s global power grows, Beijing is learning that its image matters,” David Shambaugh, a China expert and professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, asserted in a Foreign Affairs article last year.
“China needs to take all kinds of measures to educate the world about China so they can love it,” the People’s Daily suggested in a 2010 editorial.
“Preventing giant foreign media agencies from monopolizing the right of voice, enabling foreign people to hear the voice of China … is of vital importance in enhancing China’s soft power,” Dr. Li Zhi, a researcher with the International Communications Research Center of Communication University of China, told the People’s Daily.
Over the years, CCTV has secured a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other outlets. According to a report released in May, only BBC has more Facebook fans than CCTV among English-language news outlets.
Some observers suggest that the data may be skewed and that China may be buying its fans from countries known for running click farms.
China reportedly spends around $10 billion annually on “external propaganda.” China uses its state-run media outlets, such as the Xinhua News Agency, the People’s Daily, and CCTV, to present international incidents and issues in a way that benefits China.
For instance, China regularly argues that it is a victim of American attempts to derail China’s plans for a peaceful resolution to the disputes in the South China Sea, where China has been identified as a key destabilizing factor through its efforts to redefine international norms to create an environment conducive to its needs and interests.
Despite China’s best efforts, China has had only limited success, mainly in Africa and Latin America, in presenting a more positive image of itself to the international community.
“China’s favorability ratings are mixed at best, and predominantly negative, and declining over time,” David Shambaugh, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, revealed to the Center for Strategic and International Studies China Power Project.
The inconsistency of Chinese actions and rhetoric, especially with regard to major international issues involving China, have regularly impaired the country’s efforts to cultivate soft power.
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