The China in Africa Podcast recently did a broadcast on South Africa’s concerns of Chinese media in Africa, or more specifically the China Daily starting a print addition in South Africa.
What I find interest is how they describe China Daily as propaganda and most of this “concern” seems to be attributed to China Daily being this mouth piece of Chinese state propaganda. Don’t get me wrong China Daily is technically state propaganda, although it is more independent than the party controlled Peoples Daily and not as conservative as the Global Times. Nonetheless, we seem to have this perception, especially when it comes to foreign state media, that somehow Western government do not conduct the same propaganda activities and privately owned media cannot operate as state propaganda.
The reality is quite different, not only can private media operate as state propaganda, especially on an international level were poor sourcing can attributes to printing official state propaganda, but also publish on a basis of corporate influence, or personal objectives. This is most noticeable in US broadcast media such as ABC, CNN and Fox News, although its also present in many US leading newspapers such as the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Another problem is we seem to forget US state propaganda, which is either voided from Western criticism, or viewed as genuine media organizations. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) an independent agency of the United States government, which is funded by the US government and mainly influenced by far right republicans, operates seven media organisations.
- Voice of America – VOA operates on a global level in 47 languages, 13 of which are African languages
- Alhurra – Arabic language Satellite TV, which broadcasts throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
- Radio Sawa – Arabic language radio broadcast throughout the Middle East and North Africa
- Radio Farda – The Iranian branch of Radio Liberty pumping Persian language propaganda into Iran and neighbouring countries.
- Radio Liberty – Broadcasting throughout Eurasia
- Radio Free Asia- Broadcast in Korea, China and Indochina.
- Radio and TV Marti – Anti Cuban propaganda broadcast into Cuba.
Along with these seven media organizations the US Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs, launched The Africa Regional Media Hub in Johannesburg, South Africa at the end of last year. The Africa Regional Media Hub aims to connect U.S. policy makers and experts with media in sub-Saharan Africa, insuring the US state department have better control over the broadcasting of their regional and international image.
Most states have been aware of the US command of global propaganda and have normally gone to great lengths to prevent it such as jamming radio and TV stations. However, by mid 2000 other countries have chosen to counteract US propaganda and promote their own foreign policy by starting their own news networks, RT (Russia), Press TV (Iran), Al Jazeera (Qatar) and CCTV (China). What’s interesting about Chinese international media is unlike Press TV, RT and US state media, it promotes it own image and remains fairly ambiguous on international affairs. Both Press TV and RT are extremely critical of US foreign and domestic issues and operate purely on a level to counteract US global image, alternatively US state media operates as a pressure group aimed at promoting the US global image and pressuring US foreign policy and political change, in countries were they operate. On the other hand, Chinese international media operates to promote is own domestic and global image, insuring it stays away from criticizing foreign government government, unless they come into direct conflict with Chinese foreign policy such as the South-China Sea disputes.
Most of the concern related to Chinese media operating in Africa is more of a Western construct. The China Daily maybe a state propaganda paper, but is no different from US and other Western and none Western state and none state media. The reality is, unlike Asia, Latin America, Eurasia and the Middle East, US media has not paid much attention to Africa, but growing Chinese influence is starting to change US policy. On the other hand, much of US state propaganda has been aimed at attacking the Chinese-African image, targeting Chinese business interests. For this reason the concern of Chinese media in Africa, is not down to it being state run propaganda, but more so that the state run propaganda counteracts US state run propaganda and aims at improving the Chinese image, something counteractive to US foreign policy.