CHINA WATCHChina Intensifying Its Global Push for Media Influence

Published 12 September 2022

The Chinese government’s media influence efforts, turning to more covert and aggressive tactics, have increased since 2019 in most of the 30 countries under study by a new report, but democratic pushback has often curbed their impact.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is accelerating its multibillion-dollar global campaign to shape public opinion and secure both its hold on power in China and its policy priorities abroad, but local journalists, civil society activists, governments, and news consumers are pushing back at these efforts, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.

The report, Beijing’s Global Media InfluenceAuthoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience, finds that the Chinese government and its proxies are using more sophisticated, covert, and coercive tactics—including intensified censorship and intimidation, deployment of fake social media accounts, and increased mass distribution of Beijing-backed content via mainstream media—to spread pro-CCP narratives, promote falsehoods, and suppress unfavorable news coverage.

“Beijing is doubling down on its campaign to control how it is portrayed in the world and to bend foreign media to its will,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “These efforts seek to silence criticism of the regime and convert independent media into shills for the Chinese Communist Party. Journalists and some governments are pushing back, but more should be done to prevent Beijing’s influence from undermining fact-based reporting about the world’s most powerful authoritarian state and its activities abroad.”

Of the 30 countries analyzed, the intensity of CCP media influence efforts was found to be High or Very High in 16 countries, with 18 facing increased influence efforts over the course of the 2019–21 coverage period. Taiwan, the United States, and the United Kingdom experienced the most intense influence efforts, but strong campaigns were also documented in Nigeria, Spain, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, and Argentina, highlighting the global scope of Beijing’s ambitions.

While the Chinese government’s media influence campaign is ramping up, its impact is being blunted in democracies worldwide, according to the report. All of the countries studied demonstrated at least one form of active pushback that reduced the effects of Beijing’s activities. This democratic resilience has hindered the CCP’s attempts to sway public opinion, with sentiment toward China or the Chinese government declining in most of the countries examined since 2018.