Discourse Power | August 11, 2022
The art of public opinion struggle, on the top of the world, and vainglorious onanism
Readers of Discourse Power may be familiar with the Pew Research Center's most recent survey, which revealed increasingly and overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward China in the developed countries of the Global North.
Even in Israel, where Beijing had enjoyed high levels of approval, negative perception of China has increased by 21 percentage points since the 2019 survey.
However, as a good friend of this Substack, Eric Olander of China in the Global South Project, explains, "it's a very, very different story in less developed countries throughout the Global South, especially in Africa and the Middle East."
To discuss the details and nuances of this stark contrast, Eric and co-host Dr. Cobus Van-Staden were joined this week by another friend of this newsletter, Dr. Joseph Asunka, CEO of Afrobarometer, one of the continent's most authoritative polling agencies. Listen to their conversation here and check out their websites.
It just so happens that both Eric and Joe presented at a conference on China in the Middle East and Africa in June in Jerusalem, which was organized by the University of Notre Dame and the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. You can watch a video of their fascinating and highly informative talks here.
Thank you for reading,
“[The] media has a special role to play in the forming of public opinion”
Close American allies, such as the EU and Australia, have been misled about China by US politicians and the Western press. PRC ambassadors Lu Shaye and Xiao Qian are ready to "guide" them "back on the right track."
The name of China's ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, has come up recently after he told French media - twice - that after Taiwan's reunification, the mainland would have to "re-educate" its citizens. But it is not only Taiwan or Roger Waters who need more education; on Tuesday, Lu published an opinion piece titled “Guiding Europe to 'rethink' on China-related issues.”
“It has become politically correct for most European countries to follow the suit of the US and the anti-China political virus has quickly spread to Europe…The mainstream media and scholars in Europe also bear the responsibility for such tactics of manipulating the Taiwan question.
“Some so-called experts on China and some journalists always play the role of delivering the US stance and observing China through a negative filter.
“The EU is walking away from its self-proclaimed strategic independence and is being strategically hijacked by the US hegemony…The spread of information in Western society is not as transparent and smooth as it claims. In essence, it is a one-way output dominated by Western media and elite groups.
“To a larger extent, the West has consciously rejected the real situation in China and has selected, amplified, and transmitted negative information about China to their own people. Even positive information would be distorted. Over time, the image of China in the eyes of the European people has been demonized.
“The most important means to expose lies and fallacies and eliminate misunderstandings and prejudices is to strengthen communication.” (GT)
Yesterday, the PRC ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, gave the PRC’s annual address to Australia’s National Press Club, in a speech titled “Strive to Bring China-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Back on the Right Track.”
“Everyone is entitled to his views. Yet, unarguably, the policy adopted and the information released by the government [has a] direct influence on the attitude of the public.
“[The] media has a special role to play in the forming of public opinion. Allow me to put it frankly, here in this country, the media coverage [of] China [is] mostly negative, and it is simply difficult to find news about China that is positive.
“No country is perfect. But coverage [of] a country that is always in a negative perspective is nowhere near to telling the truth. Coverage [of] China of such kind is misleading and harming the friendship between our two peoples.
“To take an objective perspective on China, and tell stories about China in all dimensions, will be helpful for the Australian public to know what China truly is today.” (Embassy of the PRC in the Commonwealth of Australia)
"Carry out international public opinion struggles vigorously, continue to improve external communication capabilities, strive to break the discourse hegemony of the West, and concentrate on building a fair, objective, positive, and healthy global public opinion ecosystem"
Seeking Truth, the Party's leading journal on theory and ideology, published an article last week by the Party committee and the editorial board of the China Media Group (CMG), the colossal media arm of the Party's Propaganda/Publicity Department, outlining the Party’s "struggle" to sway global public opinion.
CMG was founded in March 2018 as a fusion of all state-holding media enterprises including China Central Television (CCTV), China National Radio (CNR), China Radio International (CRI), and the English-language news channel China Global Television Network (CGTN).
“Since the 18th Party Congress, the Party’s Central Committee, led by Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has placed great emphasis on international communication work 国际传播工作, putting forward a series of new ideas 思想, new perspectives, and new inferences 论断.
“It has vigorously promoted international communication that adheres to righteousness and innovation, leading China to extraordinary achievements in international communication capacity building, and significantly increased international discourse power 话语权 and influence 影响力.
“According to General Secretary Xi Jinping, top-level design and research layout must be strengthened in order to build a strategic communication system 战略传播体系 with distinct Chinese characteristics.
“The system should strive to increase the impact 影响力 of our international communication, the appeal 感召力 of Chinese culture, the approachability 亲和力 of China's image, the persuasiveness 说服力 of Chinese discourse, and to serve as a guiding force 引导力 of international public opinion.
“As China is moving closer to the center of the world stage in the New Era, state-media has an unshirkable responsibility 责无旁贷 to aid in the development of China’s international discourse power that matches its comprehensive national power 综合国力 and global standing.
[Subheading:] ”Carry out international public opinion struggles vigorously, continue to improve external communication capabilities, strive to break the discourse hegemony 话语霸权 of the West, and concentrate on building a fair, objective, positive, and healthy global public opinion ecosystem."
“General Secretary Xi Jinping recently spoke at a seminar for provincial and ministerial-level leaders on "studying the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's important speech in preparation for the 20th Party Congress."
“He emphasized that, in the face of rapid changes in the international environment, we have been able to safeguard national dignity and core interests through struggle, resolutely seizing the initiative 主动权 for our country’s development and security.
“In its international communication work, the CMG has carried out effective international public opinion guidance and public opinion struggle. It has been paying close attention to the tactics 策略 and art 艺术 of public opinion struggle.
“The CMG has made an ongoing effort to improve our ability to speak out on major issues, constantly improving our ability to deliver messages overseas, striving to seize 抢占 discourse power over international public opinion, and striving to create a favorable external public opinion environment for China's reform, development, and stability.
“Dare to struggle and make our voices heard loud and clear as we go on the offensive to break through the dirty public opinion tricks 舆论黑幕 of the US and Western media, enabled by a monopoly they have held for far too long.
“The CMG has optimized and integrated our working mechanisms for international public opinion struggle; it has actively set agendas and continuously improved its ability to "sterilize 消毒" Western [media] in the field, generating wave after powerful wave of public opinion momentum in the international public opinion sphere.
“The "transatlantic debate" between CGTN anchor [Liu Xin] and US FOX host [Trish Regan] in [May] 2019 drew widespread attention both at home and abroad. We have continued to refine this effective communication method, with a large group of celebrity broadcasters with over one million overseas fans frequently appearing in major foreign media outlets to vividly tell the China story and eloquently clarify China's stance and position [on major issues].
“During the Capitol Hill riots on January 6th, the CMG's White House correspondent outperformed other global networks by broadcasting live from the scene of the unrest, documenting the unfolding events as they happened. CGTN's live coverage of the riots rivaled CNN's ratings, effectively making Chinese media heard.
“In response to Bloomberg's fallacious Covid Resilience Ranking, CGTN conducted three rounds of global online surveys and released a series of original videos, including The secrets of Fort Detrick, as well as bombshell reports and commentaries on "tracing back [COVID's origin] to the US."
“Additionally, we hosted the 2021 South-South Human Rights Forum and introduced a number of influential products, such as the feature online series "US Democracy: A reality check," which pierced right through the paper-thin façade of "US-style democracy" 戳破“美式民主”画皮.
“We have provided the world with the facts and the truth on issues pertaining to Xinjiang and Tibet through documentaries, such as Memories of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang, as well as The Historical Imprint of China's Xinjiang and Seeing the Changes by Retracing the Celestial Road [to Tibet] online series.
“We have published a large number of reports and commentaries since 2022, including How can US politicians talk about "democracy" and "human rights" when they can't even protect American children? or Watch how US politicians explain their big lie on Xinjiang! Thus, we have exposed the hypocrisy of US human rights from multiple angles and effectively rebutted America's malicious slanders.
“In an effort to dismantle the long-standing discourse hegemony and jaundiced eye of the US and Western media, we have responded in a tit-for-tat fashion and set the record straight.
“CMG has worked hard to polish the brands of commentary series like [not official translations:] "CCTV's Quick Take 央视快评," "International Critique 国际锐评," "Yuyuan Tantian 玉渊谭天," "Hot-takes from the Great Bay Area 大湾区之声热评," "CCTV’s Discussions on Taiwan Strait Affairs 总台海峡时评," "The Anchors’ Stream 主播说联播," in addition to CGTN's commentaries in multiple languages.
“With our fierce style 风骨, we have remained at the forefront of domestic and international public opinion, not afraid to draw our swords 敢亮剑 while keeping our reporting down to earth 接地气.
“We have steadfastly refused any attempt by anti-China forces to "lead us by the nose 牵着鼻子走," and we have never allowed political self-interest, hegemony, racial discrimination, or ideological bias to mislead the global audience.
“We have steadfastly defended our national interests in foreign exchanges. While we have promoted peaceful cooperation like "light breeze and gentle rain 和风细雨," we have sharply criticized some countries' media for egregious acts of fabricating rumors and stirring up trouble 造谣生事 in their reports on the pandemic and other China-related issues.
“We have actively promoted the voice of justice 正义之声 in international public opinion and provided positive energy 正能量 for global governance in multilateral forums and international conferences.
“Through our discussions, interactions, and encounters with international media, we have come to the profound realization that the most fundamental reason why China's international communication work has made all-around and groundbreaking achievements since the 18th Party Congress is because General Secretary Xi Jinping is standing at the helm, stirring our ship forward 掌舵领航.
“It is through the Party Central Committee's strong leadership, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and the scientific guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era, that we have succeeded. “ (Seeking Truth)
“The great socialist dream of people all over the world - that had long lain dormant deep in their hearts - will undoubtedly rekindle when the world witnesses the emergence of a modern, powerful, socialist China”
For top political theory propaganda bi-monthly Red Flag Manuscripts, Dr. Lin Zhiyou, a professor at Henan University's School of Marxism, outlines the solid foundation, the remarkable accomplishments, and the promising future of Chinese civilization's historical confidence under the one-Party's leadership.
For some context, see my article on China, the “civilization nation,” and also check Prof. Maximilian Mayer’s excellent article on “historical statecraft” in China. Also, read the China Media Project’s exposition on the “Confidences Doctrine.”
“Strong historical self-confidence is a result of our long history as a civilization, an objectivist practice-based philosophy, and the current development trend.
“First, the Chinese nation's excellent civilization, which has lasted over 5,000 years, has laid the groundwork for our historical self-confidence. In terms of politics and economics, our national influence is at the top of the world 雄居世界民族之巅...Our innovative achievements in science and technology are met globally with awe and admiration 赞叹...In culture and art, our national treasures are celebrated by people worldwide.
“The Chinese nation has advanced with tenacity and self-assurance, producing countless outstanding civilizational achievements. Our accomplishments were enough to far eclipse all the stars in the Milky Way of ancient human history 足以使古代人类历史银河中的其他群星黯然失色; our achievements were praised and coveted by people all over the world.
“However, as the wheel of history turned into the modern era, our country was humiliated, our people suffered, and our civilization was tarnished by the invading Western powers and the corruption of feudal rulers; they dealt an unprecedented blow to China's historical self-confidence.
“To our reprieve, the October Revolution introduced Marxism-Leninism to China and gave birth to the Chinese Communist Party. Under the strong leadership of the CPC, China has undergone profound changes and created extraordinary great achievements, allowing the Chinese people to reclaim their historical self-confidence.
“Third, the bright prospects of socialism with Chinese characteristics reinforce the strength of our historical self-confidence. This firm historical self-confidence stems not only from the long history of Chinese civilization and the glorious achievements of our practice [under the leadership of the CPC] but also from China's development trend.
“A small number of people now enjoy the benefits of social and civilizational development exclusively as a result of the social effects of the capitalist mode of production. Serious social issues have resulted from it, including extreme animosity and social alienation.
“In addition to preventing the further liberation and development of society's productive forces, this has also made it difficult to resolve the various social relations of production in an efficient manner.
“In contrast, while the Chinese Communists "insist on not forgetting their roots; they are willing to absorb the foreign with their eyes to the future; they change through integration and elevate themselves through learning," a process of exploration leading to socialism with Chinese characteristics.
“Common prosperity 共同富裕 is an ideal pursuit, a long-cherished goal of humanity. Since its founding, the Communist Party of China has made it its mission and goal to work tirelessly to end poverty and promote the sharing of the benefits of development among all people. Following reform and opening up, the Party has clearly stated that achieving common prosperity is an essential feature of socialism.
“The ‘rally 'round the flag effect’ 旗帜效应 of having a powerful, modern socialist state with Chinese characteristics: China's goal, according to the 19th Party Congress report, is to become "a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful," a "global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence."
“The great socialist dream of people all over the world - that had long lain dormant deep in their hearts - will undoubtedly rekindle when the world witnesses the emergence of a modern, powerful, socialist China”
“A flag not only points the way; it also serves as a symbol of identity and, more importantly, power. We firmly believe that "the Chinese nation will stand tall and proud among the world's forest of nations" once a modernized socialist power with Chinese characteristics is realized.” ( Red Flag Manuscript | h/t @jcmittelstaedt)
“There will be no lasting political legacy or virtue left by the ‘holier-than-thou’ Pelosi and her self-serving Cold War sanctimony; it was merely a fleeting moment in the sun for a vain circle-jerk”
According to Dr. Tian Feilong, Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is a "treacherous and unjustifiable episode in the history of Sino-American relations” that will irreparably harm both the stability and security of the bilateral relations and global peace and stability.
Dr. Tian is an associate professor at the Advanced Research Institute at the Beihang University School of Law, and director of the Law Research Association for Cross-Strait Relations.
“On August 2, Pelosi finally traveled to Taiwan. The author believes that her visit is an extreme pressure tactic used by the US to challenge the bottom line of the One China Principle.
“It is a treacherous and unjustifiable 背信弃义 episode in the history of Sino-American relations that will irreparably harm both the stability and security of our bilateral ties and the global peace and stability.”
[Subheading:] “Failure to Deliver by Pelosi, the ‘Evil Politician’ 邪恶政治家”
“In actuality, Pelosi's action was both a misjudgment and a miscalculation. This fleeting display of self-glorifying vanity 短暂光环和虚荣 cannot compensate for the fact that she is ultimately a political failure, nor can she salvage the sinking ship of American hegemony.
“There will be no lasting political legacy or virtue left by the "holier-than-thou" Pelosi and her self-serving Cold War sanctimony; it was merely a fleeting moment in the sun for a vain circle-jerk. “佩洛西光环”这种自私自利的冷战光环，只有短期的媒体效应和虚荣心自慰功能，没有长期的政治遗产和美德定位.
“Her unsolicited intrusion 窜访 into Taiwan is unlikely to help her in the upcoming elections because it undermined the Democratic Party’s efforts to fix the economy and manage the risks in Sino-US relations. When the American voter realizes there are no real benefits to be gained from the Biden administration, he will punish the Democratic party at the polls.
“Pelosi's failure reflects the failure of the American political system and democracy. Political parties have been reduced to tools for pursuing personal moral gains, while intra-party comradery and any room for rational debate have perished.
“Additionally, both the American tradition of professional foreign policy and the constitutional democracy's separation of powers and checks and balances have failed to deliver results.
“Pelosi will invariably be remembered as a major blot 重大污点 on the history of American democracy. For American democracy to be repaired, she must be "cleansed" 清污 and severed 切割; in the long run, she cannot be allowed to receive any form of political credit.
“The ever-worsening quality 劣质化 of the partisan political culture of America has spurred its politicians to disregard world peace and long-term national interests for the sake of electoral gains. There is nothing they won't do.
“The "values-centered diplomacy" of the Democratic Party’s female politicians' 女性政治家 has similarly resulted in an inability to pursue a professional diplomatic course with common sense and a cool head.
“Values have become a dogma and an ideology, giving rise to a false sense of historical mission and a savior complex 拯救伦理, although there are more places where Pelosi gets her wicked ideas 邪恶心智 from.
“Pelosi's self-interested nature and moral vanity about her self-perceived historical role have single-handedly raised tensions between the US and China across the Taiwan Strait and globally.
“Because of the intense crisis and hysteria surrounding the decline of American hegemony, China is now widely believed to be its root cause. China has become a "scapegoat" 替罪羊 for the collapse of American hegemony.
“Inspiration from the war in Ukraine instilled a false sense of confidence and direction in Cold War politicians like Pelosi and her ilk, with the "Ukrainianization" of Taiwan becoming a conditioned reflex in their diplomatic and strategic decision to contain and encircle China.
“With the stalemate in the Ukraine war, Europe's general energy crisis, severe domestic inflation and industrial chain fluctuations in the US, the unraveling of the US dollar's hegemony, and the fact that its main pursuit to challenge China has failed, Pelosi's visit to Taiwan has become an important driving force and catalyst for the evolution of global order.
“Taiwan's return to the motherland is inevitable, even if it requires a longer period of internal and external turmoil and struggle. Pelosi cannot shake or reverse the just cause of national reunification and rejuvenation.”
[Subheading:] “Taiwan is the biggest victim”
“Taiwan itself is the main victim of Pelosi's unsolicited intrusion. This official exchange is bound to directly harm the status quo of the Taiwan Strait, which ensured peace and development.
“Even though the visit itself is only symbolic, the damage it will do to cross-strait economic and trade cooperation, peaceful development, and people-to-people exchanges will be great and may even result in their cessation 断裂.
“The mainland must take proactive measures to protect its sovereignty, including a full-scale assault 综合性打击 on proponents of "Taiwan independence" and interventionist powers. Taiwan will ultimately pay an inconceivably high price as a result.
“Increased pressure from such extreme [high-level] exchanges between the US and Taiwan may increase the real possibility of a "non-peaceful" solution to the Taiwan question, in accordance with the PRC's Anti-Secession Law. It narrows the window for "peaceful reunification" even further, resulting in the greatest possible loss for Taiwan.
“At the same time, visiting Taiwan will have a significant impact on the fundamentals of Taiwan's economy and people's livelihood, although this is the bitter fruit that Taiwan must bear in exchange for allowing Taiwan independence activists and external intervention to operate [with impunity].
“Even if the [ruling] Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seeks independence for Taiwan, it lacks the strength to challenge the mainland. And if it continues on this "Ukrainianization" path, it will not only be responsible for Taiwan's "self-inflicted wound 自污," but it will also bury any prospects for peace.
“Following this incident, the people of Taiwan should be able to understand fully now that "reunification has its benefits, while 'independence' leads to a dead end, and outsiders cannot be relied upon." (Ming Pao)
Playing in the Background
I started with Metallica's Holier Than Thou, but I wanted to end with something more upbeat. Here is Ruthi Navon's Hebrew rendition of The Carpenters' Top of the World:
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia