Chinese Propaganda Outlet Paid Millions to American Newspapers and Magazines, Records Show

China Daily pays to place interviews with pro-China Quincy Institute scholar

China Daily
Getty Images
May 25, 2021

A news agency controlled by the Chinese Communist Party paid millions of dollars to American newspapers and magazines over the past six months, even as U.S. officials have sounded the alarm on Beijing's propaganda activities.

China Daily paid more than $1.6 million for advertising campaigns in Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, and Foreign Policy magazine, according to disclosures filed with the Justice Department. The Beijing-controlled news agency paid another $1 million to American newspapers, including the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and Houston Chronicle, to print copies of its own publications.

U.S. officials have increasingly drawn attention to CCP propaganda campaigns in the West. The Justice Department requires several Chinese news companies, including China Daily, to disclose their activities under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Officials have also warned that CCP-affiliated groups have hosted events with American think tanks and educational institutions in an attempt to boost their influence in the West.

Several American newspapers have come under fire for publishing China Daily inserts entitled "China Watch." Though designed to look like normal newspaper stories, the inserts contain articles that portray the Chinese government and life in China in a positive light.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post have all severed ties in recent years with China Daily amid complaints that they were publishing CCP propaganda. The Times purged hundreds of China Daily advertorials from its website last year because of concerns about working with state-run media.

China Daily increased its advertising spending by more than 36 percent over the past six months, from nearly $3.3 million to more than $4.5 million, according to its latest foreign agent disclosure.

Time magazine took in $700,000 for advertising, while the Los Angeles Times received $272,000. Foreign Policy and Financial Times received $291,000 and $371,577, respectively. The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, raked in $329,898 for advertising.

Time appears to be a new China Daily client. The magazine's website features articles from China Daily with the disclosure "paid partner content," though without any mention of its affiliation with the Chinese government.

Its most recent partner content is an interview with Charles Freeman, a U.S. diplomat affiliated with the isolationist Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a controversial foreign policy think tank supported by billionaires Charles Koch and George Soros. Freeman has blamed the so-called Israel lobby for blocking his appointment to lead the National Intelligence Council during the Obama administration.

In the China Daily article, Freeman discusses his work as chief interpreter for President Richard Nixon during his first visit to China in 1972. Freeman praises what he says is China's rapid modernization since the Nixon visit, saying, "I knew China would change, but I never imagined how much and how fast it has changed."

Quincy Institute scholars have defended the Chinese government against allegations that it has committed genocide against Muslim minority groups in Western China.

Many of the newspapers working with China Daily face severe financial problems. The Los Angeles Times furloughed workers last year as advertising revenue cratered during the coronavirus pandemic. Papers like the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe have failed to turn a profit for years.

China Daily paid $89,700 to the Los Angeles Times for printing services and $164,000 in all to the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and Boston Globe.