Multiple American agencies have accepted millions of dollars from China Daily, a Chinese state-run news agency, to publish Beijing’s propaganda. The information, revealed in a recent disclosure filed with the US’ Department of Justice (DoJ), lends context to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping’s recent speech calling for the creation of a more “lovable” portrayal of China.
According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), ‘China Daily’ is obliged to report on its spending activities in the United States twice a year. China Daily, which registered with FARA in 1983, was among a dozen Chinese media outlets that the U.S. State Department designated as foreign missions of the People’s Republic of China in February last year. As a result, the companies were forced to register their American properties and employees with the department.
According to the disclosure, China Daily paid over 1.6 million dollars in ad campaigns to leading media organizations such as the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, Time, and Financial Times for the six-month period ending on Apr. 30, 2021. Another one million dollars was paid to outlets such as Houston Chronicle and Chicago Tribune to print copies of China Daily publications.
Funds received by American outlets were:
Time – $700,000
The Seattle Times – $57,807
Chicago Tribune – $30,305
Financial Times – $371,577
Houston Chronicle – $66,678
Boston Globe – $67,433
The Globe and Mail – $329,898
Foreign Policy – $291,000
Los Angeles Times – $361,700
The Washington Free Beacon reports that many of the newspapers receiving ‘China Daily’ funds are currently struggling financially. Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune have not made a profit for several years, and Los Angeles Times furloughed some of its workers last year due to low ad revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
China Daily reported total expenditures of more than 5.5 million dollars for the six-month period, including 4.5 million dollars in operational expenses and 1 million dollars for printing publications distributed through American media outlets. The company reported total revenues of over 5.6 million dollars, of which only around $255,000 was accounted for by advertising and subscription income. The remaining 5.35 million dollars was recorded as “fund from headquarter office.”
“China Daily’s sole purpose is to cover for the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing atrocities… Every U.S. outlet that supports China Daily has no right to talk about human rights or democracy. They should be ashamed of their complicity,” Republican Representative Jim Banks said to The Epoch Times.
China Watch propaganda
The ad purchases by the official China Daily news outlet are a small measure of Beijing’s global influence campaign. The China Daily ads, called “China Watch,” often appeared as clearly identified inserts in the newspapers. Though similar to multipage newspaper ads from advertisers such as real estate developers or supermarkets, “China Watch” looks more like real news reports whose stories usually put a positive spin on life in China and its policies to boost the image of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
On its website, China Daily described “China Watch” as a monthly publication with a global circulation of 4 million.
China Watch is a supplement published in major American newspapers, with content supplied by China Daily. In its 2019 report, Reporters with Borders (RSF) called China Watch a “worm in the apple.”
“Reasonably enjoyable reads and well presented, these China Watch supplements are nonetheless Trojan horses that enable Beijing to insinuate its propaganda into the living rooms of elites… The journalistic style and the tasteful layout can easily mislead the hurried or inattentive reader who trusts the overall quality of the newspaper he reads every day,” the report stated.
Officials have also warned that CCP-affiliated groups have hosted events with American think tanks and educational institutions in an attempt to boost their influence in the West.
Several American newspapers have come under fire for publishing China Daily inserts entitled “China Watch.” Though designed to look like normal newspaper stories, the inserts contain articles that portray the Chinese government and life in China in a positive light.
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post have all severed ties in recent years with China Daily amid complaints that they were publishing CCP propaganda. The Times purged hundreds of China Daily advertorials from its website last year because of concerns about working with state-run media.
China Daily increased its advertising spending by more than 36 percent over the past six months, from nearly $3.3 million to more than $4.5 million, according to its latest foreign agent disclosure.
A November 2020 China Watch report in the LA Times praised the “opportunities” offered through “vocational training” to Tibetan people. “This appears to be a deliberate attempt to whitewash a report highlighting that over 500,000 Tibetans had undergone forced labor,” Free Tibet, an organization working to secure Tibet’s freedom from China, said in a statement.
The Nov. 29, 2020 China Watch edition published by the LA Times carried an article with the heading, “More people sign up as organ donors.” In an interview with The Epoch Times, China expert Gordon Chang stated that the article shows “what China is most concerned about. And obviously, organ harvesting is on the list.”
A June 2019 report by the China Tribunal had found copious evidence of forced organ harvesting in China. “Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main – source of organ supply… The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled,” the report stated.
Time appears to be a new China Daily client. The magazine’s website features articles from China Daily with the disclosure “paid partner content,” though without any mention of its affiliation with the Chinese government.
Its most recent partner content is an interview with Charles Freeman, a U.S. diplomat affiliated with the isolationist Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a controversial foreign policy think tank supported by billionaires Charles Koch and George Soros. Freeman has blamed the so-called Israel lobby for blocking his appointment to lead the National Intelligence Council during the Obama administration.
In the China Daily article, Freeman discusses his work as chief interpreter for President Richard Nixon during his first visit to China in 1972. Freeman praises what he says is China’s rapid modernization since the Nixon visit, saying, “I knew China would change, but I never imagined how much and how fast it has changed.”
Quincy Institute scholars have defended the Chinese government against allegations that it has committed genocide against Muslim minority groups in Western China.
‘Lovable’ and Pleasant portrayal of China
In late May, Xi Jinping spoke at a study session held by the CCP Central Committee. He called for a more “lovable” portrayal of the country at the international level. In addition, he asked party departments to spread the “voice of China” and “tell the China story well,” so as to improve China’s image, cultural appeal, and to “guide international public opinion.”
“It is necessary to strengthen the propaganda and interpretation of the CCP, to help foreigners realize that the CCP really strives for the happiness of the Chinese people, understand why the CCP is capable, why Marxism is practiced, and why socialism with Chinese characteristics is good,” Xi said. The president stressed that China should be viewed around the world as “credible, lovable, and respectable.”