The Chinese Communist Party announced this week the creation of a universal propaganda arm named “Voice of China,” which the regime hopes will “ensure its voice is heard loud and clear around the world.”
The broadcast media under Voice of China appear to aspire to be a mirror image of the U.S. government’s human rights journalism network Voice of America, founded in 1942 as a counterbalance to the sophisticated Nazi propaganda machine. The organization will employ 14,000 people to spread Chinese propaganda globally.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, explained in an article published Sunday that Voice of China “is the combination of China Central Television (including China Global Television Network), China National Radio, and China Radio International, and it will serve as an institution directly under the State Council.”
It remains unclear if, like Voice of America, Voice of China will also consist of an online print site. If so, it will join a crowded field of Chinese government English-language online publications that includes the People’s Daily, the Global Times, China Daily, and the news service Xinhua, among other smaller publications.
The People’s Daily reports Xi Jinping is personally overseeing the development of the site and has decreed “the new media outlet should present China as a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and an upholder of the international order, so as to work for the efforts to build a community of common destiny.”
The newspaper asserts that the new media arm will “give people a clearer picture of Chinese life, of China’s unique development path, and of what China’s rise means for the world, as well as broaden understanding and friendship between China and the world.”
This, it claims, is especially necessary given that “Cold War thinking is rampant in the West,” citing several Republican congressmen arguing that China’s attempts to set debt traps in Africa and Latin America, colonize neighboring countries, and insert itself into disputes in the Middle East are a clear threat to international stability.
Xi has repeatedly referred to China as “keeper of the international order,” implying that China alone creates and enforces international law. Xi’s boldest attempt at putting this claim into practice has occurred in the South China Sea, where in July 2016, the Court of Permanent Arbitration at the Hague found that China’s military constructions in Philippine and Vietnamese waters violated international law. Beijing vowed to ignore the case and continue militarizing international waters and has, indeed, done so with little pushback from its smaller neighbors.
Radio Free Asia, which reports on human rights violations throughout the country, posits that the creation of Voice of China is also an attempt to elbow dissent out of the public conversation in China even more than it already is.
“The ruling Chinese Communist Party is strengthening its hold on all forms of public expression, enlarging its powerful propaganda department to absorb agencies responsible for regulating the mass media, and exporting its ideology to the rest of the world via a new mega-broadcaster,” the outlet reports, citing announcements from the Communist Party itself that make the claim that the nation’s social harmony requires extensive speech regulation.
Combining all separate wings of broadcast propaganda into Voice of China will allow the government to more efficiently “propagat[e] the party’s theories, directions, principles and policies.”
According to a Radio Free Asia source, the fact that Beijing copied the name of Voice of America does not imply that it will also use its structure as a model, “instead taking Russia Today (RT) as its model.” RT, a Russian propaganda outlet, has branded itself as a source of hard news in the United States in contrast to the entertainment programming on cable news networks – a marketing ploy that has lost much of its effect as other networks emphasize the alleged role Russian propaganda played in “hacking” the 2016 election.
Voice of China is not the first project that Xi Jinping has stolen an American title to create. For years, Xi has promoted the “Chinese dream,” a dystopian version of the “American” dream in which Chinese people enjoy a “moderately prosperous society” under his totalitarian control.
“We should pool the wisdom and strength of more than 1.3 billion Chinese people in more than 400 million households to strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era and realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation,” Xi said in a speech in February celebrating the Lunar New Year.
The Global Times recently admitted in an editorial that without stealing and repurposing American ideas, China “is not ready” to become a global superpower on par with the United States.