Source: The China Project (12/16/22)
Beijing’s global media influence machine — Q&A with Sarah Cook
Beijing spends billions on trying to influence the global conversation about China. Where does the money go, and is it working? I spoke to Sarah Cook, who has tracked media and internet freedom in China since 2007, about her latest report on the PRC’s attempts to shape the way we talk about China.
By Jeremy Goldkorn
Illustration for The China Project by Nadya Yeh
Sarah Cook is the research director for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan at Freedom House, an American nonprofit organization founded in 1941 and dedicated to monitoring and defending human rights and civil liberties around the world. She heads up the The China Media Bulletin and has authored a number of Freedom House reports, including Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022 — Authoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience. We spoke by video call in November. This is an edited transcript of our chat.—Jeremy Goldkorn
Beijing’s global media influence is a fascinating topic. But why did you do this report now?
I’ve been following the way the Chinese Communist Party influences media outside of China for over 10 years. This is just the latest report that Freedom House has published on that topic. In 2012, I did one called the Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship. And then in early 2020, we published Beijing’s Global Megaphone, which looked at the different tactics that Beijing is using to try to influence media, not only through propaganda, but also through censorship, other pressures, or control over infrastructure.
This time, we wanted to get a better understanding of how this was evolving and playing out, particularly during the pandemic and across a wide set of countries, while also looking at the degree of local response and resilience.
How well equipped are democracies to respond to the challenge posed by the CCP’s media influence activities? How much impact do the party’s efforts actually have on the media ecosystem, particularly in democratic settings?
We looked at Europe, the U.S., Australia, and we also looked at what’s going on in parts of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. We worked with local researchers in 30 countries to delve into how these dynamics are playing out. The project took about two years to complete because it’s a lot of information. So then we published the findings in September, 2022. Continue reading