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Carry a Big Stick and Speak Louder


Teddy Roosevelt Revised: Carry a Big Stick and Speak Louder

With $6.4 Billion, Chinese Communist Party is planning a China CNN

By Tianliang Zhang Mar 31, 2009


When the economy tanks around the whole world, individuals, governments and business become cautious on their investments and spend money carefully. Many newspapers are shutting down, and the New York Times is even selling its building and renting it back to ensure it has enough cash on hand. However, while China has not been immune to the economic downturn, plans are underway to expand the television media, newspapers and state news agency.

What does Beijing hope to gain by these investments? One can find some answers in statements made in its state-controlled media. According to Xinhua News Agency, the mouthpiece of the communist regime, China Central Television (CCTV), People’s Daily Newspaper and Xinhua News Agency will get 45 billion Yuan RMB (approximately, $6.4 billion) from the government. The whole purpose of this investment is “to improve the image of China in front of the International community,” said Guoming Yu, Associate Dean of News School of China People’s University.

Changchun Li, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, is the highest ranking official to censor news in China. He delivered a speech on December 20, 2008, the fiftieth anniversary of establishment of CCTV, in which he said: “Nowadays, whoever has more advanced publicity methods and more powerful publicity capabilities, will spread their culture and values more widely and will have more influence in the world.”

Li’s speech reminds me of a famous line from Jiang Zemin, the former General Secretary of Chinese Communist Party. When Jiang visited Harvard University in 1997, protesters were gathering outside the auditorium, where Jiang was delivering a speech. A reporter asked Jiang how he felt. Jiang answered, “The protesters'''' voice is loud but I am sure that my voice is even louder.”

It has been nearly 12 years and we see the same Chinese Communist Party’s mentality today. Getting their propaganda out so it is louder and more pervasive than the Western media has become the regime’s highest priority.

Currently, CCTV is broadcasting in four languages, i.e. English, Spanish, French and Mandarin. This year, CCTV will add an Arabic and Russian channel. Before 2012, CCTV plans to launch 11 channels in 7 languages.

Four events triggered Communist China’s latest plans to invest still more resources in its propaganda outlets. The first one was the Tibetan event on March 14, 2008. Almost all the international media were criticizing the crackdown and killing in Tibet, and showing sympathy to Dalai Lama and concerns on the preservation of traditional culture in Tibet.

Seeing the failure of the demonization of Dalai Lama, the Communist regime learned an important lesson, according to Hu Baijing, deputy director of Publicity Research Institute of People’s University: “We did not fight with Dalai Lama on leading the international public opinion. We forced all the foreign journalists to leave Lhasa. Moreover, in the first two days after Tibetan event happened, all other media were kept silent except for state media such as Xinhua News Agency and CCTV…We need to avoid the situation that once there is something happening, our media loses its voice. Consequently, we lose the position to be information sources.”

The second recent event that showed the value of its propaganda media was during the Olympic torch relay. It was a very controversial event. Overseas Chinese were stirred up to defend the torch and protest due to a concerted effort of the regime in its media coverage to ratchet up the patriotism and exploit the abuse done to a handicapped torch bearer.

The third and fourth events that the Communist leaders drew important lessons from were the Sichuan earthquake on May 12, 2008 and the Olympic Games in August 2008. The Chinese communist regime discovered that if they published news without delay, it can manipulate Chinese public opinion, and if they cloak their communist motives behind global cultural terms (e.g., the Olympics), their message is better received.

However, not everything went as smoothly as they had planned, as bad news will leak out one way or another. But they are very good at damage control. Authorities were warned about a great earthquake coming and where, but made no attempt at evacuation. They didn’t want the world to take the focus off their Olympics, which was supposed to raise their status in the eyes of the world. The deaths of 70,000 people caused by their lack of respect for human life, as well as the use of inferior building materials in the construction of schools and other structures were not allowed to be reported.

Using the summer Olympics as a major distraction, news of increases of human rights abuses, such as the torture of renowned Beijing attorney Gao Zhisheng and dissident Hu Jia, were not permitted to be reported either.

The Chinese communist regime is uneasy about what might happen in 2009. It is the fiftieth anniversary of Dalai Lama’s exile, twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre, and tenth anniversary of persecution of Falun Gong. With the economy slipping, it is getting harder for 20 million unemployed peasant workers as well as six million college graduates to find jobs. The regime is expecting to see more social unrest.

Instead of solving its social and economic problems and coming to terms with its violent past, the communist regime is strengthening its propaganda machine to tell the world that it is doing things in the right way and doing it well. Their ambitious goal is to construct from CCTV, Xinhua News agency and the People’s Daily, a China CNN.

But the communist regime ignores the fact that CNN is not owned and invested in by any government. Without freedom of the press, it is doubtful a China CNN can emerge and be accepted as a legitimate news source.

Past behavior of this regime demonstrates that the promotion of a China CNN is not for the sake of independent justice, freedom of media or revelation of the human rights abuses in China. The dictatorship is hoping their louder, well-financed voices will overpower the truth. They are also hoping to make an imprint in the psych of Western readers by acquiring important media outlets in the U.S. Perhaps the Communist propaganda apparatus will work as effectively over here as it has on the Mainland. Hopefully, however, the people and the government of the United States this time will pay more attention to the real needs and aspirations of the Chinese people.

Last Updated
Mar 31, 2009


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