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The China crackdown: Shaping opinion at home and abroad

The China crackdown: Shaping opinion at home and abroad
Published 7 Apr 2016   Follow @SamRoggeveen

In the New York Review of Books, Orville Schell describes a disturbing trend towards tighter suppression of opinion by Chinese authorities, who are not stopping at the border:

...what has been perhaps most unexpected about this trend is the way that Beijing has begun to extend its claim to control people and organizations beyond its borders. Despite its stubborn defense of the sanctity of sovereignty, its agents have begun reaching overseas to manipulate the foreign dialogue by setting up hundreds of Confucius Institutes, newspapers, magazines, and even TV networks that answer to the Central Propaganda Department and the CCP.

 Chinese state influence over foreign media outlets is an under-appreciated topic, one we've tried to shed light on at The Interpreter. Here's Vaughan Winterbottom writing in July 2014:

A geographic sampling of overseas Chinese media outlets to have been either acquired in full or financially supported by mainland media over the past decade includes the UK's Propeller TV, Thailand's Singsian Daily, Arab Asia Business TV, Italy's Europe Times and France's own Europe Times, content from which is circulated in Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Greece and Portugal.

And more recently, Eva O'Dea wrote in January:

Most Australians pay little attention to Chinese language media in Australia. Therefore, they do not recognise the extent to which coverage of issues relating to China differs from that in the mainstream Australian media.

The Australian Government allows the content of the Chinese language media in Australia to be heavily influenced and increasingly controlled by agencies of the People's Republic of China (PRC). In turn this enables a foreign government to shape the outlook of Chinese language media consumers in Australia on global issues and, particularly, those relating to the PRC...

...The net effect of this increasing control by the PRC over Australia's Chinese language media is that Chinese speakers in Australia — be they Australian citizens or temporary residents such as students — hear few competing perspectives. As I have pointed out in The Sydney Morning Herald, the PRC's influence over Chinese students has additional significance given many students have little engagement with broader Australian society. 

The PRC itself would never contemplate allowing this level of influence in its own media. Australia's Chinese language media needs greater attention from the Australian Government and regulators.

Do read Orville Schell's piece for more on China's crackdown.

Photo by Flickr user James Yeo.

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