Reuters published a special investigative report earlier this week describing some interesting details regarding the expanding network of radio stations airing across the United States secretly controlled by China’s State broadcaster, China Radio International (CRI).
The CRI-supported stations in the U.S. air in several American cities, including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington and Boston. The stations are part of a wider worldwide radio network consisting of about 33 radio stations in 14 countries. The stations offer a mix of music, news and cultural “China-friendly” programs. News segments often tout China’s growth and development in areas such as its space program, as well as China’s contribution to humanitarian and philanthropic causes.
Many of the shows are very professional and hard to distinguish from major American radio programs. Others, however, are less “well-done” and some broadcasters speak English with clear Chinese accents.
The stations mostly broadcast material created and provided by CRI and typically avoid any criticism or negative speak of China. The stations’ political prose seems to reflect China’s point of view on many issues, including the tension created by the United States’ sail-by in the South China Sea.
While most countries lambasted China for creating artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, one of these covert CRI-backed radio stations made no mention of the islands and indicated that the tensions in the region were caused by unnamed “external forces” trying “to insert themselves into this part of the world using false claims.”
Similarly, when the rest of the world was reporting on China’s alleged cyber hacking of the United States government and many U.S. companies, CRI-sponsored stations reported on the incident - leaving out the fact that the U.S. believed China was behind the hack.
The United States has its own stations supporting everything USA, including the U.S.-run Voice of America (VOA). However, VOA makes it clear to its listeners that it receives substantial funding from the American government. Stations receiving support from the CRI make no such acknowledgments.
American officials were unaware of the Chinese-controlled radio operation until contacted by Reuters.
A person close to the Communist Party leadership told Reuters that, “We are not the evil empire that some Western media portray us to be. Western media reports about China are too negative. We just want to improve our international image. It’s self-protection.”
Jichang Lulu, an independent researcher on China, believes that, “This is about selling China’s story to the world. The explicit intention is to portray the content as coming from an independent party, while in fact broadcasting the views of the Chinese government.”
United States officials have indicated they will conduct an investigation into the allegations.