The Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine is ramping up across Washington, D.C., in ways large and small.
The principal cog in China’s effort to influence U.S. thought leaders is China Daily, an English-language newspaper that takes an uncritical look at the People’s Republic of China and toes the Communist party line on a range of issues, including the economy and politics.
The paper, which is engaged in an advertising partnership with the Washington Post that some experts describe as unethical, is delivered on a weekly basis to nearly every office on Capitol Hill and is readily available in newspaper dispensers across the city.
"It’s in all of the offices," an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), an outspoken critic of China, told the Free Beacon. "It’s one more component of a very broad-based campaign to influence U.S. public opinion."
China is waging a carefully orchestrated campaign to push its party propaganda among unsuspecting Americans and D.C. insiders alike, the source said.
"We should emphasize the broad nature of this," said the staffer. "The sum total is greater than any one part."
China Daily routinely distorts the news in service of the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda.
The paper has also claimed that the Chinese government has no interest in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Yet Foreign Policy magazine recently laid out a litany of diplomatic, economic, and security interests that China has in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.
Some congressional offices say they see through China Daily’s propaganda.
"China should be happy to hear that their investment in China Daily to push their ridiculous propaganda has a real impact—filling the bottom of our recycling bin," said a senior Democratic Hill staffer. "Despite what many Republicans think [about Democrats], communism has no place in any serious office on Capitol Hill."
The Washington Free Beacon could not verify that last statement.
On the newspaper front, it is unclear if readers understand that they are being misled, said Larry Wortzel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
"China has an active propaganda and perception management program," Wortzel said. "The Communist Party Propaganda Department is aggressive in placing advertising, disguised as news, in many American newspapers."
Print newspapers are not the Communist Party’s sole means of dissemination. Television and Internet operations are also beginning to spring up.
In early February, the Chinese launched an American version of China Central Television (CCTV) based in Washington, D.C.
CCTV is a state-controlled news operation that routinely releases flattering portraits of the ruling Communist regime.
"They’re trying to get into the mainstream," said the Rohrabacher staffer. "Each one piece [of China’s media blitz] has not [had] a great effect, but there’s a cumulative effect. All of these themes, ideas, and concepts will work into other areas."
China experts have noted that the Communist government is especially concerned with foreign propaganda.
"The Chinese government puts a high value on propaganda work, describing it as the life blood (shengmingxian) of the Party-State in the current era," Anne-Marie Brady, an associate professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, told the USCC in 2009. "China’s foreign propaganda experts are extremely critical of what they call the ‘Western media’s ideological assault on the rest of the world.’"
Brady further noted that China promotes its ideology overseas using "newspapers, radio and television stations" and through "cultural activities" such as "the teaching of Chinese language internationally, which includes the rapid spread of Confucius Institutes; and special activities organized for the Overseas Chinese community such as conferences and ‘root-seeking’ (xun gen) cultural tours."
Some national security experts warned that China is winning the PR war, particularly because America does not have the ability to wage similar campaigns in the mainland.
"We have a Chinese state-owned entity publishing in the U.S., but the great violation of principle is on reciprocity," said Stephen Yates, a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. "Does the China Daily or any other newspaper of record [in China] allow for a regular U.S. government paid insert? I doubt it."
However, Bill Reinsch, who is also a member of the USCC, believes that "most people" are aware of China’s blatant efforts to sway U.S. public opinion.
"I think most people see it for what it is—an effort to spread the Chinese government’s message," Reinsch said. "These things are not free and independent media operations, and I think most everybody knows that."