NEW YORK—City comptroller candidate John Liu is receiving strong support from the Chinese media, both inside and outside of China.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is widely known to control domestic media and exert a strong influence on, if not directly control, most Chinese-language media outside the mainland.
Liu is reported on in glowing terms in mainland Chinese media reports.
The China News Service (CNS), the Party’s mouthpiece for overseas propaganda, has run 24 special reports on Liu's campaign for the city election, 13 of them after Liu's decision to run for the city comptroller. It is highly unusual for Chinese state media to give so much attention to a candidate for local office in the United States.
Liu's campaign and activities are also strongly supported and promoted by some Chinese-language media in New York.
Experts recognize propaganda through Chinese media organs outside China to be central for influencing overseas Chinese, and a key task in foreign propaganda work is to “turn them into propaganda bases for China,” according to Anne-Marie Brady, speaking at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in April of this year. Brady is a New Zealand academic whose research focuses on China’s propaganda system.
Articles by China Press, reprinted in Chinese domestic state-media, describe a day in the life of Liu as an exercise in altruism. One of his supporters declared Sept. 4, 2009, “John Liu fever day,” given how warmly Liu had been received at the retirement homes he visited. Later, the report says, “Walking down Broadway, people call out greetings to Liu, and everywhere he goes he is accorded a hearty welcome.”
China Press (Qiaobao) is well-known for its open support of CCP policies, and, according to a report by the Jamestown Foundation, is directly controlled by the CCP.
In a similar vein, CNS printed a 1,000-word piece explaining and refuting the Daily News’s claim that John Liu lied about working in a sweatshop with his mother as a child—most of it a translation of the refutation posted on Liu’s campaign Web site. It is highly unusual for the domestic Chinese press to focus on the minutiae of New York City election politics.
Meet and Greet
On Aug. 17 of this year Liu visited the China Press’s office and was greeted by the CEO, Li Bin, who said his organization has always supported him.
The day after, together with several Chinese association leaders, Liu visited the SinoVision TV station, also a strongly pro-CCP media in the U.S. Tang Baiqiao, a dissident who in July was beaten by people he claims were pro-CCP thugs in Flushing, says that some SinoVision anchors were employed by China Central Television, a main propaganda arm of the CCP. The CEO of SinoVision, Jiang Tianlong, met with Liu and promised to get more citizens out to vote for him.
During a 2007 whirlwind visit to China, Liu was accompanied by six leaders of Chinese associations in New York and visited some of the communist regime’s top officials in various cities. Liu’s visit was announced before and during his trip by the CCP’s central mouthpiece media, Xinhua, which described Liu as a “new political star” in the U.S., though at that time Liu was still only a councilmember representing part of Queens.
On March 30, 2007, when he arrived in Beijing, Liu met with Xu Yousheng, vice director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, which takes its orders from the CCP Central Committee. Xu’s office acts as a medium between the United Front Work Department and the CCP’s foreign embassies and consulates. The United Front is a strategic initiative that aims to expand CCP influence by infiltrating foreign countries.
The next day, on March 31, at an event hosted by the Chinese-language Phoenix TV and other Chinese-language media, Liu was given the dual-titled award “The World is Beautiful Because Of You Award/Award for Chinese Influencing the World.” The award ostensibly honors Chinese for achievements outside of China; some overseas Chinese who dissent from the Party line look upon the award dimly.
Phoenix TV, which hosted the ceremony, is an outfit that broadcasts outside of China with high-end production values and statements of editorial independence. Phoenix, however, has long been regarded by Party propaganda insiders as “more loyal than CCTV,” according to Brady in her speech.
Thread in the Web
Liu may also be one thread in the complex web of relations between Chinese business and community associations, the Chinese Consulate in New York, and the United Front.
On Aug. 22, 2008, the Association of Chinese Organization Leaders (Huayi huizhang lianmeng) held a fund raising party for Liu in Flushing. The chairman of the Association is Lü Chengrui, who arranged Liu's trip to China in 2007.
Lü said the goal for the night’s fundraising was US$50,000; by 8 p.m. they had already raised US$40,000. Though the Association had formed only months earlier, they had already organized six fundraising events.
Lü, a native of Shandong, is lauded on the Web site of the provincial government’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, a body which takes its orders from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Foreign Propaganda Group. The Foreign Propaganda Group is part of the Central Propaganda Department, a secretive organization which is always headed by a member of the Politburo, the small and powerful group which rules China through the CCP.
The Association of Chinese Organization Leaders is also enthusiastic about its relationship with the Chinese Embassy, the latter featuring on its Web site celebrations organized by the Association to welcome Peng Keyu, the Chinese consul general in New York. On April 10 of this year, for example, Peng made an appearance at their annual conference in Flushing, acknowledging the contributions of the Association over the past year.
Peng is on record admitting to fostering attacks against Falun Gong adherents in Flushing in May 2008.