Just earlier this month, China’s state run media – Xinhua news agency posted a picture of Xi Jinping, calling him a man of determination and action. The profile went on for 5000 words, full of praises. This is nothing new in China. China’s state-controlled media has long displayed flattering portrayals of communist Party leaders. This boot licking takes a new fervour reaches a new pitch during sensitive political moments.
In the recent years, Chinese media has given up even it’s pretense of journalism. It exists solely to attack the critics of the CCP and to elevate the status of Xi. Xi has been consolidating his power in a way to stay as the General secretary of the CCP for an indefinite period. He is slated to become the country’s most powerful leader since founder Mao Zedong.
One of the notable development in the recent years with respect to Chinese state media is the creation of a personality cult around Xi. Chinese state media has been reduced to being propaganda outlets for the CCP.
Unfortunately, Chinese media is not only attempting to influence domestic population, but to also amass a large following on western social media sites. It has been failing terribly in doing so.
The efforts of China’s state media to defend Beijing in front of a worldwide audience frequently appear to be ineffective. The case involving professional Chineese tennis player Peng Shuai is the most recent example of this
After she accused a top level CCP executive of sexual harassment, her social media posts were deleted and after a while, it is said she has disappeared too. After global outcry, Chinese propaganda outlets posted a video of her having dinner at a restaurant. This video seems like a shoddy attempt to convince the global public that Peng has not disappeared. Last checked, the video had no takers, as there has been Peng has still not come in front of the camera.
According to some experts, the message of posting the video was not to convince but to intimidate. Even the state media understands that a single video will not convince the global population that Peng is fine. The true message was – We are telling you that she is fine, and who are you to say otherwise?’”
Another possibility is that China is simply trying to capture attention through its aggressive media. This is essential, especially in an age of tumultuous and polarized global information environment.
During a period marked by the rise of social media, the explosion of disinformation and the disintegration of traditional information sources, China may realize the propaganda value in creating controversy for controversy’s sake.
It can be debates whether the state messaging is supposed to attract or repulse, but the capacity for false and provocative messaging to steal attention has been established. This is the environment to capitalize on during times of chaos.
An example of this can be seen in China’s response to accusations by Donald Trump that covid 19 originated in China. China hit back with unbounded claims that covid 19 originated at Fort Detrick, a U.S. military base in the eastern state of Maryland.
According to those who have worked at CGTN, the bureau daily receives mandates from Beijing to do certain stories.The CGTN staff has tried it’s best contain these stories, pushing back against the State’s pressure. Often, they run the mandated programs during periods of lowest viewership.
Some experts opine that this aggressive approach may backfire on China. Chinese society has not tolerated personality cults after Mao. Xi’s actions are bound to provoke fierce resentment, even opposition, from both civil society and among party members, including those at senior levels.
Earlier this month, Hu Xijin, the chief editor of the state propaganda mouth piece – Global Times, published an editorial lamenting government interference in media and “increasing restrictions” on Chinese journalists. The editorial was removed from the website without explanation within days.
It’s clear that blatantly false propaganda, especially about the disappearance of Peng, is not sustainable. Unfortunately, it seems that China simply does not care.The internal propaganda will probably remain unchanged too, as the CCP regime only needs to convince the people of China to retain power and not any international body.