CPC Media highlights ideological struggles with the West

In the last couple of months the Chinese media has noticeably ramped up their coverage of Chinese outreach programmes and a pattern of CPC support of non-democratic and designated “rogue” states has arisen. Recent news reports ranging from Chinese support of the governments of Iran and Sudan to articles on exponential trade growth between China and countries under Western sanctions subtly signals Chinese willingness to counterbalance Western political goals. This development, when coupled with China’s recent emphasis on ‘peaceful solutions’ in the Middle East and the media’s stern attacks on NATO indicates a new CPC missive to the world: China is now the number 1 ideological foil to challenge the West.

CPC support of foreign nations is founded on the country’s desire to advance its own strategic interests, particularly regarding trade and in securing natural resources. But the PRC media’s recent emphasis on Chinese contact with countries that have longstanding conflicts with Western democracies is particularly telling. Both Fiji, Sudan, Gaddaffi’s Libya, Sri Lanka and Iran have been feted in the last 3 months and the nature of China’s relationship with the country lauded; often placing Beijing directly at odds with the West.

On the 18th of April and later on the 1st of June, two Xinhua news stories discussed economic relationships with Fiji and the results of a Chinese trade and investment delegation to the island dictatorship. The first article in April directly quotes Fiji’s military commander (misquoted as “Prime Minister”) as naming China “a true friend of Fiji” and that ‘new Chinese infrastructure projects’ allow Fijian communities to “rid themselves of the old ways of thinking”. Meanwhile correlatory trade and investment figures quoted in June from Xinhua cited an almost 400% increase in Chinese investment from 2009 to 2010, during the same period that Australia and New Zealand increased diplomatic and economic pressure on the country. A second People’s Daily article from June also stressed the strength of Chinese relationships, his time with  the fractured African nation of Sudan. Central to the article was a quote from the Sudanese Vice President thanking China for its position in the UN “over problems related to Sudan for a long time” as well as sources citing Chinese economic assistance and trade. The article also cited several government officials discussing Chinese support of the Sudanese government on the conflict in Darfur without specifically stating it; “China respected the choice of the Sudanese people”. Later in the month, marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and Iran, the Chinese President was quoted in Xinhua as pushing for further economic and political cooperation with Iran “to promote peace and stability”. The article also made reference to the countries common interests, “friendly relationship” and diplomatic exchanges and sought to cast Iran as an international player in the world despite the country’s ‘rogue state’ and ‘Axis of Evil’ monikers.

Not only is the CPC blatantly applauding the use of its ‘soft powers’ to circumvent Western influence in the Chinese media, it is also using the media directly to the same effect. A series of challenging editorial pieces in the Global Daily and Xinhua on NATO and France’s military involvements in Africa have surreptitiously played the card of Western imperialism at the same time as they ignore China’s support of the corrupt and sometimes violent status quo of the region.

An opening article released by Xinhua in March frames Chinese intentions succinctly in claiming ulterior motives for Western involvement in the recent African conflicts. Citing “analysts” Xinhua implied that Britain and France’s leading involvement in Libya was due to internal political fortunes and national interests rather than protecting against humanitarian disasters. Particularly the article quoted from Intifada, an obscure American anti-Western paper that “The West is not only aimed at unseating Gaddafi, but also at clearing the obstacle for isolating Iran and occupying the whole Islamic market.” Meanwhile a complementary Xinhua article released later on the 27th argued that NATO airstrikes against   Gadaffi’s military forces attacking civilians were only increasing the “risk of casualties” and destabilized “an already volatile situation”. The same article went on to cite Mussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi’s discredited media spokesman who claimed the death of 100 civilians could be attributed to NATO strikes as of March, which Xinhua went on to vaguely state “have been described by many as opening a Pandora’s Box of chaos”.

A particularly damning, earlier editorial by Global Daily from April directly stated in the space of a single page that NATO in Libya is “uncaring about the loss of civilian lives“, sacrificing “the interests of local people to secure their share of the loot” and “irresponsible” for abandoning “all political solutions”. The editorial also makes it plain that the West is engaged in a propaganda war to back up what China sees as illegitimate military actions; it states bluntly that Western-spun “Treacherous reports, including some barely more than rumors” are being used to attack Gaddafi and paint him as “a consummate villain”. It goes on to argue that the Libyan rebels have allegiances to the West and menacingly that “The West will find out soon: following such a policy can only result in sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind”. Months later, a strongly worded and error-ridden editorial piece, written by He Wenping from the Global Times in June made efforts to expand China’s argument even further in linking both the Libyan and previous Ivory Coast conflicts. He argued that both cases are obvious examples of an affront “to the norms of international relations, showing no respect for sovereignty?and?territorial?integrity”. The article also cynically cites Western indifference to African Union peace proposals on both conflicts as “the law of the jungle” and concluded that “It’s time to keep a watchful eye on the West’s intervention”.

Reading lightly between the lines, it is not difficult to see strong Chinese opposition to Western interventions, especially in nations that China has strong diplomatic or economic ties with; on the whole the Chinese media is attempting to spin the Libyan issue postitively. In the opening weeks of the Libyan rebellion, state newspapers and Television stations commented on huge Chinese business losses and the repatriation of tens of thousands of Chinese workers while nothing was said of the regimes brutal crackdown on protesting civilians. Now though, the media is downplaying CPC trade connections to the old regime, with one article from the Global times titled “Business losses in Libya bloated by careless media” attempting to erase previous Chinese comments. Similarly, with much of Gaddafi’s ability to harm civilians now depleted by NATO airstrikes, Chinese media emphasis has turned back to civilians in danger, albeit now blaming NATO and the same airstrikes that ceased Gaddafi’s shelling of civilian areas in the first place.

Valid or not, looking at the CPC media’s content and claims, further ideological conflict with the West, despite their trade ties, looks inevitable as China expands it’s reach throughout the world. Through the media, China is signalling its strong intentions to counter Western hegemony where it clashes with China’s and undoubtedly the Chinese media, with all of its English Language news outlets and funding will be at the front lines of this new culture war. Both in signalling Beijing’s strong opposition to Western political and military moves and in emphasizing the strength of new Chinese hard and soft powers, the rise of Chinese influence is most obvious in its media.

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