Dec 13, 2022 - World

Beijing's media power in Southeast Asia grows

Book cover image of Beijing's Global Media Offensive, by Joshua Kurlantzick

Image credit: Oxford University Press.

The Chinese government has sought in recent years to increase its global media influence. In Southeast Asia, Beijing has found both success and failure in those efforts, according to a new book.

The big picture: "As China becomes more powerful, it is attempting to use its influence efforts to shape policymakers’ and publics’ views, in other countries, of their own political systems and leaders — not just of China but of politics in these other countries," writes Joshua Kurlantzick, a journalist and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in his book "Beijing's Global Media Offensive."

Details: Kurlantzick traces how the Chinese Communist Party has managed to expand the footprint of its media narratives through Chinese state media expansion and content-sharing agreements, quiet takeovers of local Chinese language outlets, and hosting journalist trainings.

  • Kurlantzick also examines the history of Chinese soft power and sharp power campaigns in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Some of these efforts have been successful. Xinhua, as a wire agency, has been able to expand its content-sharing throughout Southeast Asia, and many newspapers frequently run Xinhua content as part of their regular news.

  • Most domestic Chinese-language media outlets in the region have either sold to Chinese companies or are now owned by people favorable to Beijing, Kurlantzick said.

Yes, but: Some efforts have failed. "Some of the state media is outright turgid and terrible, and it’s never going to have any appeal," Kurlantzick told Axios in an interview.

  • In addition, "the more authoritarian turn in China has turned off quality reporters from wanting to work at state media," he said. That has made it far more difficult for state broadcaster China Global Television Network to achieve the kind of international status that Al Jazeera has, despite its major international expansion in recent years.

Go deeper