Feb 26, 2020 - World

Between the lines on Chinese strategy: "Borrowing a boat to go out on the ocean"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In this recurring feature from the Axios China newsletter, I'll interview an expert about a Chinese Communist Party phrase to explain the news.

This week's phrase: "Borrowing a boat to go out on the ocean." (借船出海)

What it means: Placing Chinese Communist Party messaging and approved content into media outlets abroad, either overtly or covertly.

  • Beijing has vastly expanded the global footprint of its official state media organizations, but understands that overt propaganda has limited appeal and reach among many foreign audiences.
  • The party has thus sought to "borrow" established foreign media outlets as a "boat" for amplifying and legitimizing Beijing's message.

How it works: "In its simplest form, this involves paying for Chinese propaganda supplements to appear in dozens of respected international publications such as the Washington Post," Louisa Lim and Julia Bergin wrote in The Guardian.

  • "The strategy can also take more insidious forms, such as planting content from the state-run radio station, China Radio International (CRI), on to the airwaves of ostensibly independent broadcasters across the world, from Australia to Turkey."
  • It can also mean quietly buying up news outlets abroad, as the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV tried to do to two Los Angeles radio stations in 2013 — only to be blocked by the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Why it matters: As Beijing seeks narrative dominance around the world, "borrowing a boat" is a key strategy it uses to influence skeptical audiences and to sidestep government scrutiny.

Go deeper: Census Bureau is paying Chinese state media to reach Americans

Go deeper

Scoop: Census Bureau included Chinese state media on list of vendors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign, which sends U.S. taxpayer dollars to community media outlets to run ads about the upcoming census, included a Chinese state-run broadcaster on its list of media vendors.

Why it matters: After China's yearslong campaign to co-opt independent Chinese-language media in the U.S., Washington is now paying Beijing-linked media outlets in order to reach Chinese Americans.

Go deeperArrowFeb 26, 2020 - World

China bans journalists from 3 major U.S. newspapers

Xi Jinping. Photo: Noel Celis - Pool/Getty Images

The Chinese government announced Tuesday that it will revoke press credentials for American journalists who work for the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal and whose credentials were set to expire in 2020, retaliating for state media restrictions by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: It's an escalation of a media war — in the midst of a global pandemic — that will result in U.S. journalists effectively being expelled from China. The journalists will not be permitted to work in Hong Kong or Macao, which is typically what blacklisted journalists have done in the past.

Go deeperArrowMar 17, 2020 - World

The debate over U.S. restrictions on Chinese journalists

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration this week announced unprecedented restrictions on Chinese journalists in the U.S. in an effort to pressure Beijing to ease its own restrictions on foreign journalists in China.

The big picture: The U.S. approach of late to dealing with Beijing is focused on reciprocity but analysts are split on whether the tactic will have the intended effect.

Go deeperArrowMar 4, 2020 - World