Newsweek’s hard times continue. While stranded in Beijing, I picked up a copy of the China Daily (the country’s state-run English-language daily newspaper) and saw an interesting item about a Chinese investment group’s recent attempt to purchase Newsweek, the latest step in recent Chinese government- and individual-backed attempts to control China’s image across the globe. The only coverage, unfortunately, is China Daily’s report, but hopefully more deals will be forthcoming over the coming days. There is also a translated interview with the managing editor of Southern Weekly who was involved in the bid, as well as comments from the Chinese internet about the deal.
China’s global media strategy is an important topic. Just as Chinese investors have been taking over worldwide brands and real estate, the country now sees an opportunity to use its strong financial position to influence global opinion about the country and its government by investing in foreign media properties. China Radio International has been running spots on American radio stations, and owns a radio station in Galveston, Texas. There’s a 24-hour news channel aimed to compete against Al Jazeera, CNN, and the BBC. Media executives are being flown to China to for so-called “familiarization” tours. The ironically-named CCTV (China Central Television, the state television news apparatus) now broadcasts around the world in five languages. The goal of these efforts, as senior Fulbright scholar David Shambaugh recently put it in the New York Times, is “to try and raise China’s global profile and improve its image abroad.”
The Newsweek bid is one more such effort. As China Daily reports, it was a coalition of Chinese media professionals and private investors who put forth the money to buy the Washington Post Co. publication. The group, which includes the relatively independent Southern Daily Group, has denied any government involvement in the deal. Nevertheless, the move fits into the China’s general media strategy, a naive attempt to change global opinion about the country. China Daily writes:
Xiang said the move is for the world to have a better understanding of China, and for China to know more of the world.
Importantly, the investors and Chinese media watchers see this bid for Newsweek as only a beginning. Again, in the China Daily report: “The move is an encouraging trend for China’s going-out strategy,” said Yu Guoming, vice-president of the journalism school at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China. “The strategy has, for a long time, focused on overseas expansion of Chinese media.”
More reading: China’s Go-Out Strategy, Can China Successfully Build Soft Power Without A Global Internet Strategy?, Five Have Left Newsweek, Staffers Believe More Are To Follow. But, Lo: Another Potential Bidder! (likely unrelated to the Chinese bid news, but indicative of Newsweek’s current situation)