As the Chinese-language Budapest newspaper Xin Daobao 新导报 reported in its 17 August issue, the second training of the World Chinese-Language Media Cooperative Alliance 世界华文媒体合作联盟 was held on 15 August at the China News Agency in Peking. Chinese-language journalists from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Russia, Sweden, Hungary, Malaysia and (surprisingly) Hong Kong attended.
The Alliance was founded a year ago by the China News Agency. Its director, Liu Beixian, who serves as the secretary-general of the organisation, said that its goal was to increase the cohesiveness 凝聚力 and impact of Chinese-language media.
This effort is another sign that various Chinese government organisations are paying increasing attention to “united front work” with Chinese-language media overseas. Such media are traditionally fairly independent, but they have become increasingly standardized along the lines of the PRC’s political preferences. This has several reasons. Relations with China are increasingly important for overseas Chinese businesses, which traditionally fund Chinese media. Staff at Chinese-language newspapers increasingly comes from mainland China, because in most countries they are seen as more proficient in the “proper” Chinese language and modern media management techniques. In many countries, an increasing number of readers, too, are recent arrivals from China. Media conglomerates and other businesses in China are also quietly expanding their investment in Chinese media overseas (for example, the Liuzhou heavy machinery company finances a Chinese newspaper in Cambodia). Finally, Chinese embassies have become more active in exercising the kind of informal censorship that exists within China itself. Cultural sections of embassies have long been organising informal meetings or dinners where they explain to editors how to cover a particular issue or what not to cover. Those targeted are editors who are PRC citizens, as is the case with most Chinese media in Eastern Europe, but increasingly also local citizens. I have been told by an editor of a Cambodian Chinese newspaper that no material that is “against the interests” of China can be published. The result is not just a political realignment, but also that local forms of Chinese expression, as indeed local forms of Chinese identity, are increasingly marginalized within the sinophone world in favour of a standard way of speaking and feeling that is imported from China.
The 2011 Blue Book of Overseas Chinese/Annual Report on Overseas Chinese, published by the State Council’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, contains the results of a questionnaire study administered to editors of Chinese newspapers, television stations and online portals. (This is reported in the same issue of 新导报.) According to the report, these editors would like to see more financial and “policy support” from China; free sharing of news by news agencies and portals in China; cooperation with local governments in China where overseas media would serve as propaganda outlets for them (为地方外宣服务); and more advertising by companies inside China. The article does not mention the size or composition of the sample.