Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Chinese Today"?

NEW YORK, New York -- The Chinese Communist Party feels its image needs a burnishing in "the West" and has decided to force one of its state papers to create international editions to spread propaganda, the FT reports.

It looks like China's exports slump hasn't sunk in quickly enough, if the CCP is still willing to waste money on useless propaganda gambits -- though this may counterbalance what I speculate may be the not-too-distant demise of Russia's main international propaganda outlet. For its part, the Kremlin's English- (kind of) language television mouthpiece, Russia Today (or "Russian Today," as non-English-speaking staff once called it mistakenly) is utterly unwatchable. I don't know anything about its viewership numbers, but with Russia's foreign reserves down ~25% since August, I wouldn't be surprised if the plug was pulled on it.

Ironically, the Chinese state paper chosen to be China's second organ of international propaganda (after People's Daily), the inoffensively named, could-be-anywhere-but-probably-not-owned-by-a-government Global Times, refused to confirm that it had been selected to create an international edition.

UPDATE, 1/14: The New York Times reports China is hoping to buy international media assets to start a major news network for propagandistic reasons to counter what it views as negative portrayals in Western and other media.

While many of the world's media outlets are cash-strapped and cutting back on reporters and other expenses, China's state-run media are flush with cash -- both from the state and the Western multinationals that have been advertising heavily in China while they cut back elsewhere. So thank Coca-Cola when China buys the Washington Post. 

This is what's known as the shit hitting the fan. Now, I don't think most Americans or West Europeans would fall for a propaganda outlet (either from China or elsewhere), since they're fairly savvy media consumers. But other areas where China has been trying to gain commercial, political and cultural influence, including Africa, Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Latin America, may be vulnerable once any big propaganda machine gets going and irons out its early kinks. Be afraid.

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