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China Could Use Forbes To Push Communist Propaganda, Senators Warn

CCP-controlled company wants to buy American media outlet

Chinese president Xi Jinping / Getty Images
• May 31, 2022 12:00 pm

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A Chinese-controlled firm's bid to buy the Forbes media company poses a national security threat and would allow the Chinese Communist Party to push its propaganda by using one of the most recognizable American brand names, according to a group of Republican senators.

"Forbes is a recognizable American brand with immense propaganda value to the CCP," Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Bill Cassidy (La.) wrote on May 24 to the Treasury Department, demanding the Biden administration launch an investigation into the proposed purchase. "The CCP's direction of Forbes' editorial content and business operations, or its access to Forbes' financial and personal research, could present a serious national security threat to the United States."

Forbes announced in August that it was preparing to be acquired by Magnum Opus Acquisition Limited, which is "controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," according to the senators.

The senators are pressing Treasury secretary Janet Yellen, in her role as chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, to open an investigation into the proposed purchase, which would subject Forbes to China's strict government oversight.

The Forbes acquisition is part of a larger effort by China to increase its control of American companies so that it can use them to spread its propaganda and limit coverage of its mass human rights abuses, including its genocide of Uyghur Muslims. While most Chinese-controlled media outlets that operate in the United States—such as Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, and China Daily—are required to disclose ties to the CCP, the Forbes brand name could help the Chinese government mainstream its propaganda to American audiences with less scrutiny, the senators say.

"The CCP's intent to wield the Forbes brand for its own purposes is clear," they wrote.

An April 8 proxy statement filed by Magnum Opus, the acquisition company, says that if the deal proceeds, Forbes "could be subject to oversight and discretion of [Chinese] governmental authorities, which could seek to intervene or influence its business operations at any time that the government deems appropriate to further their regulatory, political, and societal goals," the senators wrote.

Magnum Opus is "domiciled within the jurisdiction of the Chinese Communist Party," and its seed money "came directly from China's sovereign wealth fund, the Chinese Investment Corporation," according to information disclosed by the senators.

These data points indicate that Magnum Opus could be tied both to China's government and its military-industrial complex.

"China's deliberately vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel companies to support and cooperate with the government's intelligence work," the senators wrote, warning that the Forbes acquisition could help feed this complex network.

China has invested heavily in its propaganda machine, including efforts in the United States. China in 2020 spent $64 million funding its foreign agents, up from around $10 million in 2016, according to Axios. This marks a 500 percent increase and makes China the top state spender of foreign influence operations in America.