China has approved the creation of one of the world’s largest propaganda machines, Bloomberg recently reported, as a way to improve its global image.
The new broadcast will be called “Voice of China” according to a person familiar with project. The name is similar to the U.S. government-funded Voice of America that was established during World War II to advance American interests.
The new entity will likely be created through merging China Central Television, China Radio International and China National Radio. The combination is designed to boost the party’s ability to shape and alter public opinion. It would also likely serve as a vital means for China to project its image to the world.
The source, who spoke to Bloomberg on the possible merger, asked to remain anonymous as the changes have not yet been officially announced.
The move will result in the creation of one of the world’s largest broadcasters, with a staff of some 14,000. The conglomerate will also report directly to the Communist Party.
These rumored changes come at the heels of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping government overhaul and fiery speech that touted Chinese exceptionalism. China’s ruling party continues to gain even more control over its citizens, from financial services to manufacturing to entertainment. And with the recent removal of presidential term limits, Jinping has even greater potential to enact sweeping permanent change throughout China.
Since taking power in 2012, Xi Jinping has tightened controls over freedom of expression and sought to reshape China’s state-run media organizations.
“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name,” he said while visiting state-run broadcasters in 2016.
China continues to spend billions of dollars on propaganda as part of a decade-old soft power push.
The country has also ventured into more extreme examples, with potentially tens of thousands of Chinese citizens currently being held in “re-education camps.” The purpose of the camps is to promote Chinese ideology, watch pro-government propaganda videos, and to renounce ethnic and religious identities. Residents must also recite slogans such as “religion is harmful,” and “learning Chinese is part of patriotism,” according to a report from Human Rights Watch.
The massive propaganda push has certainly been a concern for both the international community and Chinese citizens.
Zhan Jiang, a prominent professor of international journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Australian Financial Review: “Overnight we have returned to Mao’s era. China has moved back 30 years.”
Another scholar speaking to AFR who wished to remain anonymous had similar harsh words:
“We are becoming more like the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] now. The Party is the ultimate controller of all issues. We made a lot of efforts in the 70s and 80s to separate the party from the government, but now the party is taking everything under control.”