The Chinese government is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its use of media in Africa to get its message out to a wide variety of audiences across the continent. The most visible examples of this trend are the growing availability of Beijing’s legacy propaganda outlets that includes the Nairobi-based TV network CGTN, the China Daily newspaper, and China Radio International.
But it’s online where China has dramatically expanded its reach by giving away its state-owned Xinhua news service to dozens of African media outlets who use its content as an alternative to other, fee-based news agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press. In many instances, African news consumers are not even aware that they are reading Chinese government-produced news content that masquerades as articles written by local journalists.
What’s happening in Africa is part of a much broader global trend, according to Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst at the human rights NGO Freedom House. Earlier this month, she published an extensive report that details the expansion of Chinese media influence around the world since 2017.
Sarah joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the findings in her new report and why both African and international governments should be concerned about this trend.
- Freedom House: Beijing’s Global Megaphone: The Expansion of Chinese Communist Party Media Influence since 2017 by Sarah Cook
- Foreign Policy: In Africa, China Is the News by Aubrey Hruby
- The China Global South Project: The Growing Number of Ways Chinese Propaganda Filters Into Mainstream African Media by Eric Olander
- The Lowy Institute: Behind the News: Inside China Global Television Network by Merriden Varrall
Sarah Cook is a Senior Research Analyst for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan at Freedom House. She directs the China Media Bulletin, a monthly digest in English and Chinese providing news and analysis on media freedom developments related to China. Cook is also the author of several Asian country reports for Freedom House’s annual publications, as well as three special reports about China: The Battle for China’s Spirit (2017), The Politburo’s Predicament (2015), and The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship (2013). Her comments and writings have appeared on CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Before joining Freedom House, Ms. Cook co-edited the English translation of A China More Just, a memoir by prominent rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, and was twice a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva for an NGO working on religious freedom in China. She received a B.A. in International Relations from Pomona College and as a Marshall Scholar, completed Master’s degrees in Politics and International Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.