China Seeks Soft Power Influence With CCTV America

CCTV America, the Washington-based affiliate of state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV)began airing English-language programs in February of 2012. NPR reports on CCTV America’s timely entrance into the U.S. media landscape  – coming precisely as domestic news organizations cut back on spending and staff, on how the organization is navigating two distinct media traditions, and on how Beijing will use the outlet towards its soft power goals:

CCTV America Business News Anchor Phillip T.K. Yin was born and raised in the U.S. by parents who emigrated from mainland China. Yin used to work in investment and for CNBC and Bloomberg. He says he is mindful of the tension between the American tradition of an independent press and Chinese expectations that the media serve the state. And yet, he says, CCTV America has broadcast interviews involving allegations of major computer hacking incidents originating in China — hardly a flattering story.

“It’s changing very quickly,” Yin says. “I can tell you even from the time that we came onboard here to where we are today, we’ve changed a lot. We’re covering stories from sometimes very controversial angles.”

[…]Orville Schell, a veteran journalist and founder of the website ChinaFile, sees a somewhat different dynamic at work: the Chinese state seeking to exercise soft power, a way to project influence through ideas and culture rather than the display of military might.

“This fixation on soft power arises from their deep and abiding insecurity and sense of not being respected and of being hectored and bullied by the world over the last century and a half,” he says.

CCTV’s entrance into the American media landscape comes as part of larger soft power campaign to expand China’s presence in overseas news media, which has also seen Beijing increase its media presence in Africa. While CCTV America has been criticized for downplaying sensitive China stories, it has also been noted that their coverage of some topics sensitive in the U.S. have been harder-hitting than many of America’s domestic media outlets.

For more on soft power, external propaganda, or China’s state-run media, see prior CDT coverage.


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