Beijing’s Global Media Offensive
How is China trying to influence media across Asia and indeed globally? Why has this ambitious project achieved rather mixed results so far? And how should the rest of the world respond? In this episode of the Nordic Asia Podcast, CFR’s Josh Kurlantzick talks to NIAS Director Duncan McCargo about his important new book, Beijing’s Global Media Offensive (Oxford UP, 2022).
His book is a major analysis of how China is attempting to become a media and information superpower around the world, seeking to shape the politics, local media, and information environments of both East Asia and the World. Since China’s ascendancy toward major-power status began in the 1990s, many observers have focused on its economic growth and expanding military. China’s ability was limited in projecting power over information and media and the infrastructure through which information flows. That has begun to change. Beijing’s state-backed media, which once seemed incapable having a significant effect globally, has been overhauled and expanded. At a time when many democracies’ media outlets are consolidating due to financial pressures, China’s biggest state media outlets, like the newswire Xinhua, are modernizing, professionalizing, and expanding in attempt to reach an international audience. Overseas, Beijing also attempts to impact local media, civil society, and politics by having Chinese firms or individuals with close links buy up local media outlets, by signing content-sharing deals with local media, by expanding China’s social media giants, and by controlling the wireless and wired technology through which information now flows, among other efforts.
In Beijing’s Global Media Offensive – a major analysis of how China is attempting to build a media and information superpower around the world, and how this media power integrates with other forms of Chinese influence – Joshua Kurlantzick focuses on how all of this is playing out in both China’s immediate neighborhood – Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand – and also in the United States and many other parts of the world. He traces the ways in which China is trying to build an information and influence superpower, but also critically examines the new conventional wisdom that Beijing has enjoyed great success with these efforts. While China has worked hard to build a global media and information superpower, it often has failed to reap gains from its efforts, and has undermined itself with overly assertive, alienating diplomacy. Still, Kurlantzick contends, China’s media, information and political influence campaigns will continue to expand and adapt, helping Beijing exports its political model and protect the ruling Party, and potentially damaging press freedoms, human rights, and democracy abroad. An authoritative account of how this sophisticated and multi-pronged campaign is unfolding, Beijing’s Global Media Offensive provides a new window into China’s attempts to make itself an information superpower.
Joshua Kurlantzick is senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of five previous books about China and Southeast Asia. Duncan McCargo is Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen.
The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.
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