What is inside the Western media’s toolbox against China?
Published: Jan 22, 2024 08:28 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Mass media has always been an important instrument of warfare, victimizing a broader truth and complexity. All countries promote certain narratives, whether by state, public service, "independent" or even free media.

The West has lots of state-financed and state-influenced media, but it usually calls them "free" and other countries' media "state media," which is meant negatively. In the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, also known as MIMAC, the Media has become more important lately due to the explosion and globalization of media types and communication.

It's become increasingly difficult to know what reality is. Public education is more difficult, or deceptive, than ever.

Two and a half years ago, the foundation that I head, published a large report "Behind the Smokescreen. An Analysis of the West's Destructive China Cold War Agenda And Why It Must Stop."

We identified nine mainstream media manipulation methods: fake, omission, censorship, self-censorship, framing, constructed narratives, propaganda and other distortions, psychological warfare or psychological operations, and cancel culture.

While all countries may invest in them and use them as part of their diplomacy, the West boasts that it has free and independent media that promote the noble values of freedom, democracy and human rights while they also practice these methods.

The above nine methods represent, of course, a gross violation of the mentioned values - for instance, the freedom to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers" that is stated in several international law documents.

These methods aim to present to one's own citizens and the world that "our" government is good while "their" government is bad or evil and we have to combat their disinformation. It's a war with and on media: Look who is the threat!

1. The US with its allies is a world leader in the nine mainstream media manipulation methods. They erode the very idea of free media as the "fourth" estate of democracy. Also, their public service media are entirely state-financed and tend to lose their role as credible quality educators that the citizens can safely rely on.

2. When it comes to commercial advertisement-financed private media, they are operating within the constraints of the media "market," profit-making, pleasing their owners' interests and prioritizing the "click economy." News becomes a commodity, and thus anything but "free and independent." The only really free media left maybe those in the blogosphere, driven by passion and knowledge.

3. Countries also influence media through their intelligence services which conduct more or less hidden psychological operations to instill a certain attitude or fear in their own citizens. Operation Mockingbird from the 1960s was one of the first. The CIA's worldwide influence on public opinion is well-documented.

4. One of the US federal agencies with a huge influence on the "free" media is the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM). According to its homepage, it communicates weekly with more than 410 million people through two federal organizations - the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversees Radio and TV Martí - and four non-profit organizations - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and the Open Technology Fund - which receive grants from USAGM - "to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy."

5. Yet another channel for disseminating China-negative materials is to let think tank experts provide so-called "neutral, objective" expertise and interpretations. Since many think tanks receive funds from the Pentagon and State Department or organizations, such as the CIA-affiliated National Endowment for Democracy, they are anything but unbiased. Furthermore, these experts have often made a "revolving door" career through the aforementioned institutions.

6. The US also drives its world-influencing China-negative narrative through legislation related to both foreign policy and other political areas.

In 2021, the Biden administration continued the Obama and Trump administration's policies, including Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's speech on the non-documented Xinjiang genocide accusation. It aggravated the policies with legislative bills, such as: S.1169 - Strategic Competition Act of 2021, S.1260 - United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 and the EAGLE Act - Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act.

Some were not enacted into law, but a) their content is pretty shocking in terms of US interference in the internal affairs of China, and b) some of the texts in bills not enacted may well turn up with amendments in future bills -and may then become law. The EAGLE Act mentioned above became H.R. 3524 of December 2022 but was not enacted. These texts are often several hundred pages long; the reader may access them at govinfo.gov, govtrack.us, or congress.gov.

Here follows an excerpt from S.1260, which is meant to give the US a technological edge that also contains a number of interference policies, such as:

"Removal of members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that commit human rights abuses. Sec. 3306. Policy with respect to Tibet. Sec. 3307. US policy and international engagement on the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists. Sec. 3308. Sense of Congress on the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Sec. 3309. Development and deployment of internet freedom and Great Firewall circumvention tools for the people of Hong Kong."

Under "SEC. 3002. FINDINGS," one finds no less than 28 points - many with several sub-points - that shall serve as evidence for the framing of China as, simply, one big threat to the entire world (and why US leadership, as mentioned, is more needed than ever).

The S.1169 Act - passed by the Senate but not yet enacted into law - included the allocation of no less than $100 million each year from 2022 to 2026 to produce anti-China media coverage, specifically spreading information on the "negative impact" of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative in participating countries. Furthermore, funding programs to "counter Chinese influence," a scheme to "train journalists" with the goal of countering Beijing, and millions more in funding for Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

Whether enacted into law or not, these texts indicate the non-peace confrontational world views, self-image and demonization drives of the US foreign policy establishment.

The author is the director of the Sweden-based think tank Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn