The Chinese Government, in the interest of broadening its political-economic expansion, has recently begun to pay particular attention to strengthening its influence in foreign media. Today, Chinese central television already controls multiple specialized channels, broadcasting to foreign audiences: in Chinese, French, Spanish, English and Russian. Through government instituted and controlled media, Beijing is actively striving to not only propagate national culture and language, but also to communicate to foreign audiences the favorable position held by the PRC in political, economic and social aspects, countering Western propaganda.
In the light of a noticeable recent decrease of western media representatives in Africa, due to financial issues, China is actively expanding its influence in this field on the “black continent”. Investing tens of billions of dollars in various economic sectors of the African continent, a considerable portion of them the PRC is channeling to media. With these measures, the Chinese Government is attempting to outweigh the influence of western media, which it holds responsible for a distorted view of the Celestial Empire. In addition, expanding media influence in resource wealthy African regions is, according to Beijing, a necessary means for improving the performance levels of local Chinese representatives.
In this context, Kenya offers the most vivid example. The choice of Kenya in this regard is quite clear: Nairobi is a true crossroads in the informational flow of English speaking nations of East Africa. The most popular English newspaper issued in this country is The Daily Nation which is filled with articles from the largest Chinese Government News Agency Xinhua. Xinhua’s informational English channels, China Central Television (CCTV) and CNC World are also present in local television broadcasting. Over the international Chinese radio channel, China Radio International offers a Chinese language course and explicit information on trade and economic cooperation between China and Africa.
In January 2012, a regional Chinese Channel broadcasted in English, CCTV-AFRICA was launched, daily acquainting citizens of African governments with regional and international news processed by Chinese experts. Simultaneously, CCTV-AFRICA launched the mobile application “I love Africa”, facilitating African’s acquaintance with China and offering information prepared by Xinhua.
Earlier, China already launched throughout Africa a Twenty-Four hour international information channel in Arabic, CCTV-ARABIC for audiences from 22 Arabic-speaking governments in the Middle East and North Africa, in which 300 million people African reside.
At the end of 2012, China started issuing another weekly newspaper on the African continent in print and digital versions – China Daily. The creation of this African publication received substantial administrative and financial support on varied levels of Chinese leadership: from the Communist party, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Trade and Culture.
The successful penetration of China into African media is attested to by the results of the yearly forum held in Johannesburg (South Africa) – DISCOP AFRICA TV, the only market on the continent for specialists in production and distribution of information. No less than ten Chinese companies from the television industry are usually present, which, particularly in 2013 where able to not only negotiate with the Tanzanian television channel Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBS) on broadcasting Chinese video productions in the local language Swahili, but also sign a number of consequential contracts of business collaboration with African representatives.
Aside from implementing controlled television channels, China is expanding the representative offices of its Information Agency Xinhua which already has over 150 correspondents all over Africa. In the PRC over the past eight years over 200 local journalists and managers of local media have been prepared and trained. These tactics have already paid China dividends: aside from a growing number of those sympathizing with PRC on the continent and the local administration being inclined to closer business cooperation with China, Africans have come to view western “aid” programs much more critically.
Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.