China expands soft power through 24 hour news | Connect Asia

China expands soft power through 24 hour news

China expands soft power through 24 hour news

Updated 18 January 2012, 17:40 AEDT

We may soon all become as familiar with the Chinese voice as we are with CNN and BBC.

Last month one of China's largest state owned media, Xinhua News Agency, launched a 24-hour global English TV News channel. It's the strongest sign yet of China's determination to push its soft power and increase its influence worldwide. But experts have questioned just how effective these news services would be.

Presenter: Lily Yan

Falk Hartig, former editor Xinhua News Agency; Professor Edward McDonald, University of Auckland

(SFX CNC World Promo)

YAN: The 24-hour English TV news channel is China's latest attempt to bring its perspective to the globe. Beijing officials have long been complaining about what they call the biased media coverage of China in the West. To build a media empire of its own seems the answer they have found. Together with the launch of the CNC world, Xinhua is also opening a prominent newsroom in Times Square. Meanwhile, China's CCTV and Radio International are all busy expanding bureaus and purchasing FM time slots overseas.

German Scholar Falk Hartig has been a keen observer on China's media move.

HARTIG: From the Chinese perspective, there are so many western voices; I think the aim is to set up a channel or channels to bring the Chinese voice to the world.

YAN: Hartig is no stranger to Xinhua News Agency himself. He worked in its Beijing bureau for two years as an English editor.

HARTIG: The biggest problem here is they are investing heavily in the quantities things of these channels but I think, especially when they are trying to target Western audiences, they also should do something about the quality. The quality of Chinese journalism compared to of the West, it's still something very different.

YAN: Nevertheless, China's ambition in its media expansion is unstoppable. Last year alone, China has reportedly spent more than eight billion us dollars on so called "PR activities". The heavy investment has brought in state-of-art facilities, but Professor Edward McDonald from The University of Auckland says, the polished hardware won't make up for China's lack of understanding of the outside world.

MCDONALD: Because if you want to present China to the world, you need to understand there is just not one world out there, it's really a process of cross-culture communication. It takes a long time to build up a core of journalists who have the media skills and the culture skills.

YAN: Professor McDonald also worked for CCTV, another major Chinese media organisation. He says, from his experience, China did not have a clear agenda on building a media empire other than seeing it as a symbol of power.

MCDONALD: China is a returning super-power, not a new super power. It's important symbolically for China's voice to be heard. So I think given the top down decision making process in China, getting the sort of technology to enable that came first".

YAN: But Chinese media has achieved some success overseas. Xinhua has become the major news source in Africa, beating CNN and BBC by offering much cheaper news services.

However, it's the West that China really wants to conquer. Professor Mc Donald says China should have put its effort in other programs if it really wants to have its voice heard.

MCDONALD: If the Chinese wants to produce programming that would be interesting to overseas viewers, if they want to make, in a sense a good propaganda, it would make more sense if they put more resources into features, into documentaries and art programs, because those are sort of things people from overseas would want to watch. The Chinese could be much more successful in putting over their point of view, indirectly perhaps, through those sorts of programs.

YAN: German scholar Falk Hartig agrees, He says it will be a mission impossible for the Chinese news media to have a truly credible voice.

HARTIG: I think they should change something in their self-understanding of what kind of media or what kind of journalism they are doing. But at the end of the day, if they would change this, they would need to change the whole system. When they change the whole journalism system, they would have to change the whole political system, this is difficult, I think.

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