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Chinese media paid Wall Street Journal, Washington Post millions to print propaganda in the US

Chinese flag, Beijing, China. (Daderot, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
June 10, 2020

A Beijing-controlled propaganda outlet paid multiple U.S.-based media outlets millions of dollars to run advertisements that look nearly identical to news articles.

A new report from the Department of Justice shows that the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post received $6 million and $4.6 million, respectively, since 2016 to run the ads in their newspapers. The report is a part of an ongoing effort to stymie Chinese propaganda in the country.

The paid supplements were produced by China Daily, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. The supplements, called “China Watch,” are designed to look like real articles written in English, the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) reported.

The Washington Post has published Chinese propaganda on a number of occasions. It is unknown if the newspaper is aware China Watch is controlled by the Chinese government, but the last time China Daily paid the Post was in December 2019, the Justice Department’s filings show.

The total amount the Chinese propaganda machine paid American newspapers came to almost $19 million. China Daily also paid the New York Times a much smaller amount, $50,000, to place the paid supplements in its newspapers as well. Foreign Policy was paid $240,000; The Des Moines Register was paid $34,600; and CQ-Roll Call was paid $76,000.

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The subject of China Daily’s advertisements, in the form of pseudo-news articles, pushed an anti-Trump and pro-China narrative. One supplement titled “Tariffs to take toll on U.S. homebuyers,” claimed that the tariffs the Trump administration levied on China would raise the costs of building new homes, according to the DCNF.

Another supplement praised Chinese president-for-life Xi Jinping’s effort in Africa, with the headline reading, “Belt and Road aligns with African nations.” China’s Belt and Road initiative is an effort to redirect global supply chains away from the United States using African resources.

The Justice Department’s report is the latest in a broader effort of the Trump administration’s effort to stifle Chinese influence in the country. The White House has frequently criticized American publishers for promoting Chinese propaganda for political gain.

On April 9, the White House issued a statement critical of a publicly founded outlet that praised China’s handling of the coronavirus, without questioning the legitimacy of China’s narrative. At the time, the outlet, Voice of America (VOA), said that China’s handling of the virus was a “model… for countries battling the coronavirus around the world.”

China frequently silences critics of the government and those who question its narrative surrounding the coronavirus.

VOA spends about $200 million a year in taxpayer funding to “tell America’s story” and “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively” to people around the globe, according to the White House’s description of the outlet.