The decision to cut VOA’s shortwave broadcast to China is not about fiscal responsibility, but instead about appeasing the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, according to Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.
“This is clearly not a budget cut, this is clearly an effort to gain favor with dictators by catering to their desires,” he said in an interview. “And their desire is: no criticism.”
The timing was also troubling to Mr. Rohrabacher, who spoke to Kitty Wang of New Tang Dynasty Television, an Epoch Times media partner.
“The fact that our leadership has proposed this reduction in the broadcast services in VOA to the people of China so shortly after a visit paid here by a leader of the Communist Party of China, Mr. Hu, should let people understand that this is not simply something that was in the works and it was a budget cut,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. “What we’re seeing is the product of a deal between the President of the United States, and a dictator who holds power with an iron fist.”
Online commentators have pointed out how the BBC’s decision to sideline its China shortwave service also corresponded with the visit to England of Li Keqiang, the apparatchik next in line for the premiership. Both lines of speculation are unconfirmed.
Whether the product of a backdoor deal or not, the implications bother Mr. Rohrabacher: “They are still suppressing religious believers,” he said, “whether it’s the Falun Gong or the Muslims, or Tibet with the Buddhists out there.” The people who live under a regime of that sort need ready access to the news America provides, he said.
It is also one part of an international dynamic where communist China is pushing vigorously outward with its propaganda, while America is in retreat.
“It’s a horrible situation when you have a dictatorship like that in Beijing dramatically increasing its communications budget with the rest of the world, expanding its propaganda campaign, greatly spending much more money on trying to create a false image of itself, while at the same time in the United States we are pulling back, spending less resources,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.
“The fact that we’re pulling back at a time that they’re expanding is a horrible message to the world. What it says is that America is in retreat and in fact we should be saying that freedom is on the move and the people who run China with an iron fist, their days are numbered,” he said. “How we do that of course is to make sure we’re on the side of the people of China, and now we can’t even tell them that.”
Zhang Kaichen, a former propaganda official from Shenyang, China, sees some of the same problems. “The Chinese people really want truthful and fair information, but the CCP uses a massive amount of human and material resources to basically blind and deafen the people. VOA and Western society should take the lead—not only should they not cut the service, but they should strengthen it.”
At the same time, there was another side to it, according to Mr. Zhang.
“In VOA there are many people put in there by the CCP, you can call them spies, or pro-CCP employees, so when they do programs they’ve already twisted VOA’s perspective, and they’re promoting the CCP, and sometimes having a negative effect on the views of Chinese people,” he said.
“I paid a lot of attention to VOA programs when I was in China,” he said. “At that time, whether in their programs or guests, what they said had already gone against the facts, and was helpful to the CCP’s so-called ‘maintaining stability’ and wasn’t speaking on behalf of the people.”
He gave as examples their reporting on the Olympics, the Sichuan Earthquake, the persecution of Falun Gong, and mass protests, like the Weng’an and Shizhou incidents. “And China’s so-called ‘peaceful rise’ and the ‘China model,’ these are basically anti-freedom models, but VOA brings experts with delusional perspectives on the matter, and basically promotes the CCP, which is deceptive to the Chinese people.”
The purpose of the U.S. government funding VOA is about propagandizing freedom, democracy, and truthful news, Mr. Zhang said, “it’s not about promoting the CCP on U.S. soil.”
Better to resolve the manpower problem separately, rather than cancel the whole broadcast, he said.
As chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rohrabacher plans to make the decision a major area of investigation within the next 60 days.