Beijing Controls Messaging in Australia’s Chinese Press

In recent months, deals struck between official Chinese media outlets and Australian media have raised concerns over increasing Chinese government influence in the Australian news sector—concerns which have extended to academia and other sectors of Australian society. In a new report for Sydney Morning Herald, Kelsey Munro and Philip Wen look at how the Chinese language media in Australia are now, with a few exceptions, almost entirely controlled by interests aligned with Beijing:

One way or another, Beijing has extended its messaging control over almost all the Chinese language media in Australia, Australian Chinese media sources say. Politically sensitive or unfavourable coverage of China and the ruling Communist Party has been effectively stopped outside all but a couple of Chinese language outlets, as the government steps up efforts to filter what the Chinese diaspora consumes.

“Nearly 95 per cent of the Australian Chinese newspapers have been brought in by the Chinese government to some degree,” said an editor who works at a pro-Chinese government publication in Australia, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Advertisement

The terms for the media are clear: “To report the good news about the Chinese government, not the bad news of course,” the editor said.

The tactics employed involve both stick and carrot, and exploit the commercial pressures small independent publications routinely face. Advertisers, usually Chinese-owned firms or businesses which rely on good relations with the Chinese government, are told by consulate officials to pull advertising from non-compliant media outlets, and are directed instead to divert their dollars to those who toe the party line, the editor said. Consular advertising budgets are directed to friendly media, and Australian Chinese newspapers rely on the income stream from state-owned publications in China paying to place several editorial pages – which are laid out in China – in each edition. The end result, the editor said, is that almost all the Australian Chinese newspapers only publish what the Chinese government wants them to. [Source]

In recent years, Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to use financial leverage to extend their censorship regime into other countries, from the news media in Africa and Taiwan and elsewhere to art exhibits, film festivals and book publishing around the world.