You know, it’s hard out here for newspapers. According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper subscriptions are declining fast. And ad revenues are falling, too, so it’s tough to make ends meet. Fortunately, there’s at least one group that hasn’t given up on Western journalism: the Chinese Communist Party.
Yes, the Chinese state-run media is paying to place its propaganda in mainstream Western newspapers—like the Daily Telegraph, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. And if you get a respected American newspaper to run the same thing, people think it’s credible. So it becomes something that’s more accurately called disinformation. That’s when intentionally false or misleading information is planted in a way that would make people believe it. It was a technique masterminded by the Soviets, and it’s been fine-tuned by the Chinese Communist Party.
The latest piece of disinformation is a 5-page full color spread published in the January 17th edition of the Wall Street Journal. Sure, it looks exactly like a bunch of news articles. But it’s an advertisement. You can tell by the small text at the bottom that says “Paid by the Xinhua News Agency”. And because it’s selling us Xi Jinping’s vision for a better world for all. Yes, China has a plan for you, too.
That article also criticizes the US for it’s “sense of superiority and impatience.” Another article on that page accuses Europe of being fueled by “rightist ideas.” But if you’re concerned about the Communist Party’s anti-Western messages being printed in the Wall Street Journal, well, sure they’re in inside the Wall Street Journal, but according to the Wall Street Journal, they’re not in the Wall Street Journal.
I emailed their spokesperson, who responded: “The Journal has run special advertising sections and other traditional advertising from China Watch, which are clearly labeled as such. The Journal’s news organization is not involved.”
Basically, if someone pays them to run an ad, they’re not responsible for what it says. As long as it’s clearly labeled. FYI, I also asked the Wall Street Journal if they’d be willing to run a full-page ad that praises Stalin. Strangely, they did not respond.
And one of the most interesting things this 5-page Chinese “ad” is selling: Blasphemy That Masquerades as Art. Yes, the Chinese Communist Party is a great art critic. After all, they spent decades eradicating traditional Chinese culture, and twisting theater to its own political ends. So they know a thing or two.
So what is this so-called “Blasphemy That Masquerades as Art” that Chinese state-run media is criticizing? Why, it’s Shen Yun! A dance company that state-run media accuses of being linked to Falun Gong, a.k.a. Falun Dafa. Well, I am shocked, shocked to hear this terrible secret that no one knows. Except for the fact that Shen Yun explicitly says this on its own website. Yes, Shen Yun is:
- “reviving 5,000 years of civilization”
- “features the world’s foremost classically trained dancers”
- And look, it was “established by Falun Dafa practitioners in 2006.”
Whistle. Blown. What amazing investigative reporting from Chinese state-run media.
If you’ve been watching China Uncensored for a while, you’ve heard me talk about the Chinese regime’s weird obsession with slandering Shen Yun. And if this is new to you, let me tell you why the Communist Party sees this Chinese-American dance show as such an enormous threat.
Falun Gong practitioners are the people getting their organs harvested in China, as punishment for doing meditating. Such a threat to social harmony. Like yoga.
And yet—and this is true—the Chinese regime has spent billions of dollars since the late ’90s creating a global propaganda campaign to slander Falun Gong. Including by planting disinformation in foreign newswire services like the Associated Press.
Anyway, you can imagine that this latest Chinese state-run media-slash-totally-not-Wall Street Journal article does not speak highly of Shen Yun, calling it full of “far-fetched theme[s],” that spare little effort in “demonizing the Chinese government.” (Pull Quotes)
Hey, demonizing the Chinese government is hard work.
Unfortunately for the Chinese Communist Party, Shen Yun is actually really popular. It plays to packed theaters every year in hundreds of cities around the world. I just saw their performance at New York’s Lincoln Center last week. It sold out four shows in a row.
What’s so “blasphemous” about it? Well, the show had about twenty dance and music numbers. Most depicted cultural and historic things from China, like a scene from Journey to the West. But some of them also show an awareness of modern China. One had a monk with awesome fighting skills defending a Buddhist temple from being demolished by Communist officials during the Cultural Revolution. Another one showed Falun Gong practitioners standing up to the Chinese regime’s persecution.
Imagine! Using the arts to tell important stories. What blasphemy. Yes, according the article, audiences get “assaulted with everything the Falun Gong propaganda arsenal has to fire at them.”
Why, even a Wall Street Journal anchor said she and her son enjoyed the show.
But for the Chinese regime, Falun Gong is a third rail issue. They hate it when people talk about it positively—because it rips apart their propaganda. Like back in 2001 when the Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the regime’s persecution of Falun Gong. That was before the Communist Party started paying the Wall Street Journal though.
For years, the Chinese Communist Party has gone to great lengths to stop people from seeing Shen Yun.
Chinese embassies around the world have written to theaters that hosting Shen Yun “may compromise relations” between China and their country. And pressuring them to cancel it. Like in Spain, Germany, and even Florida. That’s pretty low. Florida needs all the culture it can get.
Anyway, it’s a tactic that generally backfires, since when the news comes out, it kind of makes people want to see the show more. But if an article inside a well-respected paper like the Wall Street Journal trashes Shen Yun as Falun Gong propaganda, that could actually affect sales—especially for readers who don’t realize it’s an ad from Chinese state-run media.
But, come on, Wall Street Journal. Are you really willing to print the Chinese Communist Party’s disinformation for a few thousand bucks? Oh, sorry. What I meant was, the retail price for a full-page color ad in the Wall Street Journal is $354K. The Xinhua News ad was five pages, so…about 1.8 million dollars. I mean, I’m sure the Journal gave them a discount. After all, they probably want repeat business.
But you know what? If they’ll run a full-page Chinese propaganda ad, we should run a China Uncensored ad. Except I don’t have $354K. And that’s maybe too ambitious of a Kickstarter campaign. Hey, who needs a newspaper ad anyway? Traditional media is dying! I have my fifty-cent army! Yes, China Uncensored fans, I want you to spread the word about the show. Remember that wanted poster of me that, uh, someone, created?
Download it on this website. The link is in the Description box below.
Print out 10 copies, 20 copies, or as many as you can—and put them up in a populated area near you. Take a wide photo of one of the posters and send it to me in an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to tell me where you put it up. And we’ll post those pictures on our Facebook page. This is going to be awesome.
So what do you think of the Wall Street Journal allowing Chinese disinformation to be printed in an ad in their paper? Leave your comments below. And put up those posters!