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Monday, March 14, 2011


China seeks soft power's reach via media

Staff writer

China's state-run media organizations are aggressively trying to expand their global presence in a national strategy to increase the emerging giant's say in international affairs and project its soft power abroad, said a Hong Kong-based expert on Chinese media studies.

News photo
Chan Yuenying (left) and Qian Gang discuss issues surrounding China's media industry during the Jan. 31 symposium at Keidanren Kaikan in Tokyo. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

But the success of the strategy remains to be tested as these state-run media are also exposed to growing competition at home with commercialized media as well as web contents generated by the huge ranks of China's Internet users, said Chan Yuenying, director and professor of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at The University of Hong Kong.

Chan was among the speakers who discussed the situation surrounding Chinese media during a Jan. 31 symposium jointly organized in Tokyo by the East Asia Media Research Center at Hokkaido University's Research Faculty of Media and Communication and the Keizai Koho Center. Qian Gang, director of China media project at the center, also took part in the event.

In August last year, a previously little-known Chinese investment fund made headlines worldwide as it announced the purchase of News Corp.'s major stakes in three TV channels in China. The deal was taken as an indication of Rupert Murdoch's acknowledgment of defeat in the Chinese market, but it was also reported as the possible first step in China's bid to build a global media empire, Chan told the audience.

Among the founders of China Media Capital, created in 2009 directly under the State Council of the Chinese government, were the China Development Bank and the Shanghai Media Group, under the Propaganda Department of the Shanghai city government.

China considers it a matter of the nation's "cultural security" to expand the Chinese media's international operations, Chan said. Its purpose is to beef up China's image worldwide and expand its influence in global affairs, she said.

Chan said Beijing has pursued such a policy since 2000, and elevated it to the level of a national strategy to promote the nation's cultural industry and its outreach to the global market.

Additional measures announced in 2009 call for greater state investments in the industry, she said. China Media Capital is one of the funds created as part of such efforts, she noted.

But as major state-owned Chinese media such as the Xinhua news agency and the China Central Television try to expand their reach to overseas audience through the launch of multilingual international news services, they face increasing competition at home with the commercialized media, Chan pointed out.

For example, the number of visitors to the online editions of Xinhua and the People's Daily is much lower than the websites of many of the commercialized media, she said. A research shows that web contents in China posted by the conventional media are already outnumbered by user-generated contents, she noted.

It will also be questionable if the state-owned media will be able to gain the international recognition they seek if they are simply feeding state policy propaganda to the global audience, Chan said.

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