How can China′s voice be heard better?

- December 3, 2019 -


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China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters, Beijing, China. /VCG Photo

Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain and the United States. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

CGTN Global Media Summit and CCTV+ Video Media Forum is taking place in Beijing this week. Hosting a number of prominent participants from media, technology and business, the forum is themed "media vs. technology," with focus on topics such as 5G, but also how the world we live in is reshaping news and information distribution, thus exploring challenges and opportunities this environment brings.

In the midst of approaching this topic one question remains crucial for moving forwards in the digital era: How can China's voice be better heard in the world and through international media? 

Amid contentious times in the West, there is an overwhelmingly tendency to dismiss China's views, which do not meet Western narrative, as mere propaganda or deception. In doing so, there is a one-sided dimension which assumes that the West has an indisputable monopoly over the "truth" of what China is and how it ought to feel.

The West believes they hold a singular and indisputable notion of political "truth" – a view of the world and reality based on its historical legacy of dominating other countries. As a result, the average Westerner believes benignly that they are "enlightened" while people from other countries are "deceived," and thus the West has a "moral mission" to bring them over to the Western conception of that "truth."

This mentality constructs a binary in the contemporary portrayal of China in mainstream media discourse that renders everything said by the country's media and authorities as propaganda, unless it happens to favor their narratives. Given its ideological roots, the term "propaganda" is used emotively rather than critically to dismiss things that are misaligned with their beliefs. 

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The 2nd China Global Television Network Global Media Summit and the 8th Global Video Media Forum opens in Chongqing, southwest China, October 16, 2018. /CGTN Photo

Because of this ideological bias, the fact a Chinese person supports his/her government is not accepted, as the only "authentic" view is one that favors the West. 

So, how can China be better at getting its voice heard in the world? 

First of all, it needs to use what it has to better amplify its voice to Western audience to challenge the monopoly over Western discourse, which is held by a handful of organizations and corporations.

Using the resources it has, it needs to focus on innovative methods to better engage people both on and off social media. In doing so, it must encourage Western people to think more critically about what they are being told, and challenge the increasingly politically motivated anti-China stories which are now dominating some broadcasters such as the BBC and ABC.

In doing so, it must appeal to facts and merit. China must not fall into the tempting pit of misinformation. Instead, its media has a burden now to demonstrate that it can be more factual, accurate and insightful than Western commentary. It has to illustrate a more comprehensive, detailed and informative view of China in the bid to challenging falsehoods and politically motivated attacks.

All this should come under the overriding objective to break the "Bubble" which Western outlets have over their audiences, that is the ideological assumption of truth and enlightenment. In this case, Chinese media must step up its game. Never has the country's voice been more important. 

Western audiences are poorly informed about China and will believe anything they are told based on the false belief that they have the monopoly on truth. In the digital era, the need to develop a new and convincing take is critical. As the forum kicks off, there is a lot to be said but even more to be done.