Chinese Regime Sets Up Global Campaign to Recruit Influencers to Counter Western Narratives

By Alex Wu
Alex Wu
Alex Wu
Alex Wu is a U.S.-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on Chinese society, Chinese culture, human rights, and international relations.
June 18, 2021Updated: June 22, 2021

The Chinese communist regime’s overseas English mouthpiece media CGTN (China Global Television Network) just finished a two-month-long worldwide recruitment campaign of global media talents and social media influencers to produce pro-Beijing propaganda that “counters Western narratives.”

The state-backed broadcaster, which offers rich incentives to attract young participants, has been targeting Western university students, generating concern among international media and communities.

CGTN began its “Media Challengers” campaign in April to globally enlist reporters, presenters, DJs, podcasters, and social media influencers who report in English. According to the official website, the campaign “aims to inspire young people from all over the world” and it has a goal of “injecting new power into international communication under the environment of media convergence.” Participants are required to upload a 3-minute-video of any genre, whether they are a “foodie, techie, makeup guru, sports fanatic, or something else entirely.”

The media outlet offers up to $10,000 to winners and free professional training to finalists. It also offers job opportunities to winners, either part-time or full-time, at “CGTN’s Beijing headquarters and three regional production centers in Washington, London, and Nairobi.”

In addition, the winners “will be invited to participate in CGTN’s coverage of the ancient Silk Road from 2021 to 2022.”

Epoch Times Photo
An office block that houses the offices of China’s CGTN (China Global Television Network) Europe, in Chiswick Park, West London, on Feb. 4, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Targeting Western Youth

YouTube videos about the campaign show young participants from Western and African countries as well as Chinese students studying abroad. In addition, UK media The Times reported that CGTN is targeting British universities because several university students and local media influencers are among the participants.

The report warned that if “Western social media influencers read out China’s official line on particular issues, domestic audiences might believe the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] is admired by international audiences.”

The China Research Group in the UK posted a tweet that said the global influencers and vloggers recruited by CGTN “will promote China and counter western narratives that damage its image.” The group also noted that the CCP’s official overseas mouthpiece is targeting British university students.

“No self-respecting university should allow such a propaganda outfit to recruit on its campus,” the Henry Jackson Society, a British diplomatic think tank, commented on Twitter about the CGTN’s recruitment campaign.

U.S.-based current affairs commentator He Qinglian wrote in an opinion article for The Epoch Times that the CCP’s overseas propaganda policy—commonly known as big foreign propaganda—“involves huge amounts of both manpower and money to spread the CCP’s narrative and ideology to foreign countries, thus achieving its goal of telling China’s story—the CCP’s way.” She pointed out that CGTN has used attractive salaries and state-of-the-art facilities to recruit foreigners to work at its media centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Africa.

In 2018, in its West London office alone, there were 6,000 local applicants competing for 90 media job vacancies.

CGTN’s broadcasting license was revoked by UK media regulator Ofcom in 2020 because its content is directly controlled by the CCP, as well as for airing forced TV confessions of dissidents including British citizen Peter Humphrey. However, France renewed its license, allowing CGTN to continue airing its programs, which resulted in the reporting of disinformation.

In 2021, French media Le Monde exposed CGTN for using a nonexistent French journalist to publish fake news about Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region, in an attempt to whitewash the genocide against the minority group by the communist regime.