When Covid Hit, China Was Ready to Tell Its Version of the Story

But Mr Rigoni, whose company is owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said he didn’t think China’s mix of media and state power was unique. “It is not the only country where major television and radio programs are controlled by the government or parliament,” he said.

And the Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists, Anthony Bellanger, said in an email that his view on the report is: “While China is a growing force in information warfare, it is also important to respond to US pressure resist Russia and other governments around the world. “

However, there is no question which government is currently more involved in this campaign. A report by Sarah Cook last year for Freedom House, an American nonprofit advocating political freedom, found that Beijing “spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year getting its message across to audiences around the world.” .

The United States may have pioneered covert and overt influence during the Cold War, but the official channels of government have withered. The boastful CIA influence operations of the early Cold War, in which the agency secretly funded influential magazines like Encounter, gave way to American branches like Voice of America and Radio Liberty, which sought to expand American influence by broadcasting uncensored local news to authoritarian countries. After the Cold War, these became softer tools of American power.

More recently, President Donald J. Trump tried to turn these outlets into blunt propaganda tools and Democrats and their own journalists resisted. The lack of American consensus domestically about using its own media has resulted in the American government being unable to project much of anything. Instead, the cultural power of companies like Netflix and Disney – far more powerful and better funded than any government effort – has done the job.

And journalists around the world have voiced skepticism about the effectiveness of the propaganda from the often ham-handed Chinese government, a skepticism I no doubt shared when last week I recycled unread issues of China Daily that were sent to my home last week . The kind of propaganda that can work in China without a real journalistic response can barely compete in the intense open market for people’s attention.

“China is trying to get its content out in the Kenyan media, but it’s not that influential yet,” said Eric Oduor, secretary general of the Kenya Union of Journalists.

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