Media coverage of China was more than twice as likely to be positive than negative in 2020, despite covering up the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic which caused 3,325,260 deaths, set off a worldwide recession that contracted the global economy by an estimated 4.4%, and dramatically altered life for every single human being on the planet. More than half (56%) of journalists in a global survey said news stories about the People’s Republic of China had become more favorable during 2020, while only 24% said they saw more critical stories.
Such an upsurge seems surprising, since reports indicate that China deliberately concealed the extent of the pandemic in the early days of the Wuhan outbreak and expropriated more than $60 million in PPE from the United States. Then the CCP barred Western companies based in China from exporting PPE to the United States, while selling the West face masks produced by the slave labor of the nation’s persecuted Uighur Muslim minority. Many of these Chinese exports proved useless or harmful. The Chinese company Crawford Technology Group sold the United States 140,400 defective KN95 respirator masks before the Trump administration filed charges last July.
8 in 10 journalists also said they had witnessed a spike in Chinese disinformation during 2020 — including every single journalist polled in North or South America.
The new report, released this month by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), reveals how Chinese Communist officials overcame these issues to enjoy an adoring press. In short, they got it the old fashioned way: they bought it. More specifically, through exporting PPE and its “Sinopharm.”
The difference in media coverage between nations which received Chinese COVID-19 relief and those that did not is clear: 60% of stories in non-recipient countries focused on China’s culpability for the global pandemic, but 63% of stories in recipient nations highlighted how China’s “fast action against COVID-19 has helped other countries.”
This “medical diplomacy” gave the PRC leverage to fix the news in its favor. The IFJ notes that “57 percent of Chinese vaccine recipients said they had seen attempts by Chinese actors to shape media narratives regarding local politics in their countries, compared to 34 percent of nonrecipient countries.”
And often, the Chinese Communist narrative succeeded. Nearly two-thirds of recipient nations said their media’s image of China improved, and that they were more likely to see pro-Chinese presence on social media, during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Twitter later reported more than 173,000 accounts spreading CCP propaganda, particularly against Hong Kong.
“In some countries, China was also seen as the purveyor of the most accurate information about the new coronavirus, showing its growing influence over global narratives,” the report notes. That sometimes included U.S. legacy media outlets like NBC’s “Today Show,” which regurgitated CCP propaganda that Beijing had actually “delayed the arrival of the coronavirus” on U.S. shores. NBC’s Ken Dilanian also filed an article titled, “As U.S. struggles to stem coronavirus, China asserts itself as global leader.”
Often, China simultaneously improved its own image and harmed that of its host nation. The Chinese Communist Party targeted hard-hit Italy with “an aggressive Chinese disinformation campaign,” including deep-fake videos purporting to show Italians applauding Chinese medical aid while singing the Chinese national anthem. (The original video showed Italians applauding Italian medical workers.)
“They tried to say that the virus has in reality been born in Italy,” one Italian journalist told the IFS. “This was just outlandish, fake news.”
During the height of his cult of celebrity, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also described COVID-19 as a “European virus.”
In addition, China penetrated Western nations by offering Western media outlets state-run propaganda at no charge. Many of those surveyed admitted to printing stories, airing documentaries, or relying on the increasingly sophisticated outlets for key facts about China. “Wherever the readers are, wherever the viewers are, that is where propaganda reports must extend their new tentacles,” President Xi Jinping said in 2016.
The greatest surge of negative publicity for China came in North America, where President Donald Trump branded COVID-19 the “China virus,” highlighted Chinese human rights abuses, and launched a global trade war against the world’s second-largest economy (and the largest mercantilist economic power).
Former Pentagon intelligence analyst Dan Garrett told the Voice of America that the Chinese Communist Party exploited the pandemic “to promote the socialist system and the leadership of the Communist Party as superior to the Western system of democracy, universal values, and freedom.”
If China can improve its global image during a worldwide viral plague and recession that it caused, imagine what lies ahead — and how feckless legacy media outlets will amplify their message.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.