Fixed: This article now contains additional paragraphs that were accidentally omitted during the initial editing.
During the recent Belt and Road Forum, Chinese government representatives announced a range of new media projects to showcase China and its global interactions. These initiatives demonstrate the significant resources China has dedicated to establishing communication channels with other nations. However, the term “cooperation” in this context often masks the truth of one-sided partnerships that ultimately promote Chinese perspectives.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compiled a list of items related to news and media, which are part of the “List of Multilateral Cooperation Deliverables of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation”.
IV. Outputs of Collaborative Platforms Not Led by the Government
- […] 40. The 2nd Silk Road Global News Awards (launched by the Belt and Road News Network)
The China Media Group (CMG) and media partners from Belt and Road countries have come together to launch a joint initiative aimed at promoting mutual understanding and learning between civilizations. This initiative involves over 40 media organizations from Belt and Road partner countries.
The Middle East Media Alliance was created by CMG and 15 media organizations from 8 countries in the Middle East.
- 43. Annual Work Report of the Belt and Road Media Community (issued at the Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum)
- The declaration of joint action by media organizations along the Belt and Road was officially announced at the Global Video Media Forum.
[…] V. International Conferences in 2023 and 2024
The Media Cooperation Forum on the Belt and Road, also known as the BRI, will be held on the 63rd occasion.
The third meeting of the Belt and Road News Network’s Council.
- 88. 2024 Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum [Source]
On October 12, Beijing hosted the 11th Global Visual Media Forum as a lead-up to the Belt and Road Forum. This event drew 140 representatives from 108 international media organizations and major media outlets from 63 countries. The objective was to enhance media cooperation and “advance a new global media and opinion landscape,” as stated by Shen Haixiong, chairman and editor-in-chief of China Media Group (CMG), a conglomerate of Chinese state media outlets. The primary outcome of the forum was a Declaration of Joint Action by Belt and Road Media Organizations. This declaration involves a commitment from its signatories to “facilitate the exchange of media resources, knowledge, and technology” and “collaborate in telling the story of the Silk Road.”
Two days later, the China-Africa Media Action initiative was revealed by CMG. In a speech, Shen Haixiong explained that the aim of the initiative is to “strengthen communication and collaboration between media, jointly plan and produce documentaries, TV magazines, and other multimedia content, and enhance cooperation in creating and broadcasting programs related to the ‘Belt and Road’ theme.” Vestine Nahimana, the president of Burundi’s National Media Council, also mentioned that it will involve an “exchange of programs and expertise” between Chinese and African media. Over 50 African media organizations have expressed their support for the initiative. News reports on the launch of the initiative, taken from the English-language state media channel CGTN, were featured in various outlets in Algeria, Niger, Burundi, and the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB).
During that week, the Ghana News Agency disclosed a recent collaboration with the Chinese embassy in Ghana. The partnership aims to promote the spread of information, promote cultural exchanges, and strengthen diplomatic relations between China and Ghana, with the assistance of Xinhua. The negotiations were facilitated by Liu Mingzhao, the embassy’s Director of Political Affairs, indicating that the intent of the partnership is primarily political rather than media-oriented. Since then, GNA has published multiple articles from sources such as People’s Daily, Xinhua, CGTN columnists, and local staff, all of which speak highly of China or the Belt and Road Initiative.
A recent and entertaining project introduced this month was a podcast series about Xi Jinping’s life, available in multiple languages. Called “Stories of Xi Jinping,” this 12-episode series was officially launched worldwide at an event in Frankfurt, Germany on October 18 (although it was first released in May). The podcast is accessible in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian versions and has been published on eight podcast platforms and 80 mainstream media platforms in 15 countries, according to CGTN. The goal of the podcast, according to CGTN, is to provide insight into China and its leader, Xi Jinping.
The Chinese Ambassador to Germany, Wu Ken, stated during the launch event that the podcast provides a diverse and unique viewpoint for the global community to better understand China, form a more unbiased perception of China, and approach China with a more logical interpretation.
[…] Chinese Consul General in Frankfurt Huang Yiyang said the podcast will provide the European public with a gateway to understand China’s navigator and helmsman. And it will also open a “window of thought” for European audiences to gain a better understanding of China, the CPC, and the journey of Chinese modernization. “Through ‘Stories of Xi Jinping,’ we can feel the spirit, foresight and charisma of a leader who has dedicated his life to public service, and also gain a deeper understanding of his vision, his thoughts and his people-centered philosophy,” Huang said. [Source]
None of the twelve 15-minute episodes contains even the slightest bit of criticism of Xi. Instead, a host narrates a timeline of Xi’s life in hagiographic detail, interspersed with upbeat, soaring music, clips of Xi’s speeches, and dramatic reenactments of conversations that Xi ostensibly had with locals. Xi is portrayed as a humble, selfless, and visionary leader. All of the episode titles are in quotes that appear to be attributed to Xi. Episode 5, for example: “Put aside my own well-being for the good of my people.”
The ninth episode is called “My Greatest Strength is the Trust of the People.” In this episode, the narrator explains that Xi Jinping is a dependable friend to the people who not only prioritizes saving lives during emergencies, but also shows concern for their basic needs (5:16). He goes on to say that when Xi expressed how difficult it was for him to leave Zhejiang, the local officials and residents shared the same sentiment. Their sincere emotions were evident and moving (11:57). The narrator concludes that Xi’s words deeply resonate with the Chinese people and his genuine dedication has earned him their trust and support (13:01).
In the 11th episode titled “Considering Myself as a Regular Person,” the speaker praises Xi’s modesty, stating that he has become a diligent and humble individual with strong self-discipline (3:13). The narrator goes on to say that Xi’s lifestyle is even simpler and more frugal than that of rural residents (5:55). He also points out that Xi has never sought special treatment or privileges (6:52). The speaker continues to shower Xi with praise, stating that he believes honesty and uprightness are the most important qualities for government officials, who must adhere to strict codes of conduct. Xi has followed the principle of being honest and maintaining good conduct since he was young, making him a perfect example of a man of integrity who works for the public good (7:53). Xi has also stated that being a government official and becoming wealthy are two separate paths, and that those in public office should not strive for excessive wealth (11:52). Over the years, Xi has become a role model for leading a simple and frugal life while being diligent in his work (13:55). However, there is no mention of the fact that Xi’s family once held significant assets in offshore tax havens and other investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Stories of Xi Jinping” appears to be the Chinese state-media’s response to The Economist’s “The Prince,” an acclaimed 8-part podcast series about Xi by Sue-Lin Wong. “The Prince” won an Excellence in Global Audio Reporting award from the Society of Publishers in Asia. So far, CGTN’s podcast has five stars on Apple Podcasts, out of only two ratings. The penultimate episode notes that this is only season one.