Newsom Doles Out Taxpayer Funds to Chinese Foreign Agents

Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
June 29, 2023
California Governor Gavin Newsom awarded taxpayer-funded "ethnic media" grants to foreign agents of the Chinese government, including a pro-Beijing news outlet that claims to serve as "China’s outward media and advertising proxy" in the United States.

The California State Library this week announced $8.1 million in grants to 62 news outlets to raise awareness about hate crimes, according to a press release. That includes $100,000 to EDI Media, which is registered as a foreign agent of China. The library awarded $100,000 each to Sky Link TV and U.S. News Express, both of which publish a steady stream of pro-China content. The grants are the second round of funding for ethnic media outlets. The first round provided $100,000 to Sing Tao, a Chinese state-owned outlet that is registered as a foreign agent.

The grants could raise questions about the Newsom administration funding pro-Beijing mouthpieces as California stares down the barrel of a $32 billion budget deficit. Newsom, who has reportedly considered running for president in 2024 or 2028, has proposed cutting billions of dollars in spending on public universities, transportation, and climate initiatives to save money.

Newsom touted the grant program after the first round of funding last year, saying they will "increase awareness of the valuable services provided by the Stop the Hate Program, reduce stigma surrounding the reporting of hate incidents, and promote community healing."

The grants will fund "specialized reporters," news briefings, and social media content for outlets that cater to Asian, African-American, LGBT, Hispanic, and Arab communities. Other recipients included Black Voice News, Hispanic LA, Outward Magazine, and Slavic Sacramento.

Newsom has boosted Chinese propagandists before. He hailed Sing Tao for its "journalistic integrity" and "balanced news stories" at its annual gala in 2021. That was shortly after the news outlet registered with the U.S. government as a foreign agent of China, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

EDI Media, which registered as a Chinese foreign agent last year, publishes newspapers for Xinmin Evening News, which the State Department has declared a state-controlled propaganda outlet.

In 2015, Reuters revealed EDI Media’s secret links to China Radio International, the Chinese state radio channel. According to Reuters, EDI Media owner James Su has described his plans to use media outlets in the United States to promote Chinese government policy. In 2003, he described plans to set up a media company that complies with U.S. law but would "endorse China’s ideology."

The two other grant recipients—Sky Link TV and U.S. News Express—are not registered as Chinese foreign agents, though they often promote Chinese government policies.

According to a report from the Hoover Institution, Sky Link TV "follows and quite often reports verbatim the official line" on international relations from Chinese state media. China’s Ministry of Commerce hailed Sky Link TV as a "cultural export" in 2014.

U.S. News Express, based in San Francisco, has promoted some of China’s foreign influence initiatives. In 2019, the outlet organized the Silk Road Americas Forum to promote the Belt and Road Initiative, the massive international infrastructure program that Beijing has used to influence foreign countries. U.S. News Express was also represented at a journalism forum organized by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department in 2019.

The California State Library and Newsom’s office did not respond to requests for comment.