‘In Other News’: China’s International Media Strategy on Xinjiang—CGTN and New China TV on YouTube
Björn Alpermann und Michael Malzer – 2023
In the Western world China stands accused of severe human rights violations regarding its treatment of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in its northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This is the first article to systematically analyze the response of China’s international state media to these allegations. By studying the YouTube channels of two leading Chinese state media, China Global Television Network (CGTN) and New China TV (operated by Xinhua News Agency), it presents an in-depth understanding of how China’s foreign-facing propaganda works in a crucial case. The quantitative content analysis highlights how China reacted to increasing international (mostly United States) pressure regarding its Xinjiang policies by producing higher volumes of videos and putting out new counternarratives. The qualitative analysis that follows provides in-depth treatment of the most important discourses that Chinese media engage in to salvage the nation’s international image, namely those on development, culture, nature, and terrorism. It finds several ways of countering criticism, ranging from presenting a positive image of China, in line with traditional propaganda guidelines and President Xi Jinping’s assignment to state media to “tell the China story well,” to more innovative approaches. Thus the development narrative becomes more personalized, the discourse on culture supports the “heritagization process” to incorporate minority cultures into a harmonized “Chinese civilization,” representations of nature firmly tie Xinjiang into the discourse of “beautiful China,” the “terror narrative” strategically employs shocking footage in an attempt to gain international “discourse power,” etc. The article provides an up-to-date picture of China’s state media strategy on a highly contentious international issue.