A U.S. senator is voicing “grave concerns” about newspapers in the United States running paid inserts placed by a Chinese state-run media outlet, saying it allows the Beijing regime to promote its propaganda abroad.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) urged news organizations to reconsider their collaboration with China Daily, in a Nov. 7 letter to David Chavern, president and chief executive officer of News Media Alliance and American Press Institute, a media industry group.
“By providing Communist China free rein to publish their propaganda alongside our media, we are giving the Chinese government an opportunity to promote values antithetical to the freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights,” Scott wrote.
China Daily, which has an overseas circulation of 600,000, is overseen by the Chinese Communist Party’s Publicity Department, the governmental agency in charge of disseminating propaganda. Several major U.S. newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, publish a supplement by the English-language state-run newspaper.
“On the front page of the November 6th edition of China Daily, a story begins by saying ‘The wish for Western-style liberal democracy is a malignant virus that infects places with weakened ideological immune systems,’” Scott wrote. “This is the propaganda that American newspapers are allowing to be paired with their journalists’ work.”
Scott then listed some of the regime’s abuses, including its theft of U.S. technology, refusal to open its market to foreign businesses, and militarization of the South China Sea. The Party also represses religious freedom domestically, and denies Hong Kong the autonomy it had promised when the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, he said.
He criticized outlets for shirking U.S. values and “[selling] access to their readers to the highest bidder.”
“As you allow China Daily to push their oppressive ideals in our country, ask yourselves, are American publications given the same privileges in China or are they bound by China’s rule of law and censorship?” the letter stated. “Based on their track record, I think we all know the answer to that question.”
With no press freedom in China, the regime pressures foreign media outlets operating in the country to self-censor content through implied threats, such as revoking or denying journalists’ visas and shutting down their websites.
In the lead-up to the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, a top newspaper in Iowa ran a four-page insert by China Daily, which included articles about the negative effect of the trade war on U.S. soybean farmers. Iowa, a top U.S. soybean producer, has been affected by Beijing dramatically reducing imports of the crop in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.
President Donald Trump at the time rebuked the regime for meddling with the election with “propaganda ads … made to look like news.”