Speak no evil: Propaganda may be China’s most successful strategy

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Geostrategy-Direct

Communist China is currently holding more than one million ethnic Uighur Muslims in prison camps.

Supreme leader Xi Jinping is committed to rampant espionage against American citizens and companies and the kidnapping of critics from foreign countries.

Mao Zedong caused the deaths of 50 million of his fellow Chinese.

Daniel Wu as Lu Ren and Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. / Ilze Kitshoff, Warner Bros. Pictures-Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Despite all of this, criticism of China can be found almost nowhere in American pop culture, analyst Michael Auslin noted in an op-ed for National Review.

“Hollywood films China through a lens of sweetness and light.”

The reason? China goes to great lengths via sophisticated propaganda efforts to blunt any criticism of the country and the Chinese Communist Party. And Beijing’s heavy spending in Hollywood doesn’t hurt either.

“Much of the work of scrubbing anti-Chinese images is done through the coordinating activities of the United Front Work Department,” Auslin wrote.

The department, which originated in the early 1940s and was revived in the late 1970s by Deng Xiaoping, reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is charged with building support for the CCP and by extension for China as a whole.

Overseas Chinese communities, foreign journalists, and Chinese students and professors studying overseas are all targets of the United Front.

“Perhaps never before has a major power worked so effectively to prevent negative images of itself from being spread abroad,” Auslin wrote. “Central to China’s strategy is to co-opt the popular culture that plays an outsized role in forming the impressions of non-specialists.”

Even today, films and novels about evil Nazis, menacing Soviets, and perfidious Japanese are staples of popular culture.

“Think of ‘The Man in the High Tower’ or ‘Red Sparrow’, neither of which plumb particularly deeply into the psyche of totalitarianism or the dark world of espionage. Yet in the 75 years since Adolf Hitler took the coward’s way out in his dank Berlin bunker, Nazis have never left our consciousness. And while sympathy for elements of the Soviet Union always tinged the perception of America’s elite, the Commies continue to receive a well-deserved bashing.”

Beijing, however, “has used its growing economic power to shape global public opinion through sophisticated propaganda operations and the blunt use of financial clout,” Auslin wrote.

With growing clout over foreign businesses hungry for access to Chinese markets, Beijing has also forced major corporations to kowtow to preferred policies.

“Almost all major international airlines bowed to Beijing’s demands that Taiwan not be listed as an independent country on their booking sites,” Auslin wrote. “Similarly, companies such as Marriott or Daimler-Benz that fall afoul of Beijing’s sensitivities, such as by quoting the Dalai Lama or liking a post by a Tibetan group, are forced to grovel to keep their businesses open in China, asking forgiveness for undermining the country’s sovereignty and for insulting the Chinese people. All this, of course, serves Beijing’s political goals of isolating Taiwan and turning attention away from the Chinese police state being established in Tibet.”

Beijing’s pressure on Hollywood serves the same purpose, “and is perhaps even more vital to its foreign-policy successes,” Auslin noted. “From forming production and distribution partnerships with American entertainment companies to buying stakes in U.S. studios, Chinese influence in Hollywood has grown dramatically over the past two decades.”

The impact has been clear. Not only has the massive growth of the Chinese domestic box office spurred American movie producers away from any negative images of China, explicit pressure has been put on U.S. companies to conform to Chinese demands. Meanwhile . . .

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