It wasn’t too long ago that the world saw the Chinese propaganda machine in combat mode. In the third week of February, CGTN, a channel owned by China Central Television, put out a video of a Chinese individual hugging people in Italy with the message ‘I’m a human, not a virus’. This was just a few weeks before Italy suffered the maximum number of fatalities due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore, the reach and depth of Chinese propaganda outlets. These outlets are experts in defending the actions of the Chinese government and also in shifting blame to every other country on the planet. Even when the world knew that China was hiding valuable information about the pandemic, the Chinese Propaganda machine was relentless.
The video was part of a PR campaign to inform the world that Asians were facing racial discrimination following the Coronavirus outbreak. It was in such bad taste that one couldn’t help but wonder at the lengths Chinese propagandists can go to, to serve their own agenda. This week the US designated the local operations of four Chinese media outlets as foreign missions. In effect this means that the media outlets will be referred to as organisations that are directly controlled by the Chinese government. Under Xi Jinping the Chinese government has exerted greater control on state media to spread only the version of ‘truth’ that they believe in.
Here, we have put together a list of the four largest propaganda outlets that spread disinformation on a global scale with the help of their masters in the Chinese government:
China Central Television
Originally known as Beijing TV, the channel was started by the Chinese government in 1958. It was in 1973 that the channel was renamed as China Central Television. In 2016 its foreign language division was created as a separate entity called China Global Television Network (CGTN). The channel was in the middle of a controversy recently when it stopped airing NBA preseason games because the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, came out in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
China News Service
CNS is the second-largest news agency owned by China. It largely focuses on non-resident Chinese and people living in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Hong Kong and Taiwan are territories that China claims under the ‘One Country, two systems’ constitutional principle. The news service has been criticised for using social media to spread misinformation during the Hong Kong protests. It was also found that the agency was behind spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic through fake Twitter accounts.
The largest newspaper group in China, the People’s Daily is the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China. It is published in more than 10 languages including Japanese and French. In 1989 the paper had carried an editorial which mentioned the Tiananmen Square protests as ‘unlawful protests and demonstrations.’ Back in the day, the protests resulted in the death of hundreds or even thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing. The paper had recently criticised Apple for allowing an App that helped protesters track the movement of policemen in Hong Kong. In recent times, the paper has been increasing its presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disseminate misinformation.
The paper published under the auspices of the People’s Daily largely comments on international issues. Global Times also has a full fledged website that runs articles related to China’s relationship with India, US, Europe and other nations. Last year the paper was criticised for its biased reporting on Uyghur muslims and the re-education camps in Xinjiang. The online portal of the paper is known for its pedestrian language style and content that doesn’t even try to hide its bias. The website is regularly seen issuing masked threats to countries including India for disagreeing with China’s worldview.