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China watchers raise alarm about possible Xinhua purchase
Matthew Little, The Epoch Times
2/17/2004

Xinhua Financial Network, owner of China’s official news agency, recently announced plans to buy U.S.-based Market News. The deal has many China observers concerned that Mainland China is attempting to export its Communist-style information control to the United States and manipulate investor opinion.

New York-based Market News International is one of the top providers of real-time market news, with offices throughout the United States and Europe. The purchase gives Xinhua Financial control of a well established and trusted source of market information.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua is the majority stakeholder in Xinhua Financial. Sophie Beach, with the Committee to Protect Journalists, calls Xinhua “the most firmly centralized, controlled media in China, it’s the mouth piece for the Communist party.”

She points out that smaller local media are told to follow Xinhua’s lead, particularly on sensitive political issues or stories of industrial accidents or government corruption.

She says “SARS is the most recent example...Xinhua was stating the official government line on it, that SARS was under control and that it was mostly an epidemic happening outside of China. And then, through a variety of ways, that cover-up was eventually broken apart.”

Xinhua has also faced heavy international criticism for its slander campaign against Falun Gong in China. Many have compared it to Hitler’s propaganda ministry during WWII, which painted Jews as monsters that ate Christian babies. Chinese media in the U.S. and Canada have been sued for rebroadcasting Xinhua’s reports which were considered hate propaganda with no factual basis.

While China has begun to reform its media system to reduce the number of state-owned media, most China experts agree that this kind of policy change will do little to alter China’s history of repressing free speech. They believe that privately owned newspapers will simply exercise self-censorship.

According to media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, journalists in China are now required to submit to tests on their knowledge of Communist ideology. The group ranks China 248th on a list of 249 for press freedom and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has declared that “there is so far no press freedom in China.” The Committee to Protect Journalists has also declared China has “the world’s most elaborate system of media control.”

Although Market News is China’s most notable purchase of non-Chinese media, the Chinese government began an aggressive campaign to dominate Chinese media around the world after Hong Kong was receded in 1997.

The Jamestown Foundation, a non-partisan think-tank specializing in identifying governments or countries that pose a threat to democracy and freedom, carried out a detailed analysis of China’s influence on overseas Chinese media in 2001. It found that three of the four major Chinese newspapers published in the U.S. are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government of Mainland China. The fourth is run out of Taiwan and has increasingly given in to pressure from Mainland China. A similar situation exists within overseas Chinese television stations, which often run CCTV-4 programming that is offered free of charge on an uncoded satellite signal and carries what Jamestown calls Mainland China’s “slanted news, or propaganda.”

The Jamestown report detailed that eighty percent of all Chinese-Americans live in twelve major U.S. cities and said these overseas Chinese “are targeted by the Chinese government with misinformation and propaganda."

"The ‘outside world’ and current events are filtered and presented through a limited number of media, the majority of which are influenced—or even run...by Beijing’s communist government."

Shiyu Zhou of the Association For Asia Research, a think tank specializing in Asian affairs, points out that this is another way the PRC attempts to control Chinese people within and beyond China’s borders.

“Overseas Chinese have close communications with Mainland China, so a lot of information will be passed to Mainland China through this communication. So that is why they want to control, or at least heavily influence, the opinion of overseas Chinese.

“For the Western media and the financial news, their intention is somehow clear or obvious. They still need a lot of foreign investment to sustain the regime and all the economic problems they have in China.

“Over the past few years more and more overseas economists began to realize problems with the Chinese economic system and more and more voices can be heard in the media, talking about...what’s really going on behind the mirage of the economic development in China. The Chinese government is very afraid of this kind of discussion, these opinions, because this would affect foreign investment, which is kind of key now to what they call the ‘development of the Chinese economy,’ which is very unhealthy and has much dependence on this kind of investment.

“It’s kind of obvious, or at least reasonable to think that they will try to control or influence this kind of opinion...The purchase of this news outlet could be part of such an effort.”

Zhou suggests that Western countries like the United States should be concerned over the purchase and should take a stronger stand on China’s abuse of human rights. He pointed out that Mainland China’s ownership of Western media could also be used to hide those abuses from the international community.



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